You mentioned that you are looking at certain challenges facing the sector currently – can you tell me more about these?
Challenges we are addressing include:
Net Zero agriculture
We are involved in projects looking at the role of data and technology in areas including how food can be produced more sustainably; protecting and enhancing soil health; and measuring greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture to support carbon trading, a system aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
For example, as Net Zero and environmental land management concerns drive the development of Controlled Environment Agriculture, alternative production models and growing media need to be developed to ensure future sustainability. The GelPonics project, in which CHAP is a partner, aims to improve the sustainability and efficiency of hydroponic production by developing an autonomous, energy-efficient system designed around a novel hydrogel growing medium that will be compatible with both glasshouse and vertical production, as well as being recyclable.
Smart supply chains
Issues we are exploring in this area include food quality, traceability and provenance in resilient food systems and the reduction of waste, including circularity in production systems.
Innovation includes Agrimetrics’ involvement in the Beeflink project to boost traceability within beef value chain using rapid DNA fingerprinting.
Emerging agricultural systems
This area considers both innovation in existing food production systems, and the development and evaluation of novel food systems such as Controlled Environment Agriculture and alternative proteins for both feed and food.
Current projects include a next generation aquaculture project involving Agri-EPI centre and the world’s largest fish manual vaccination company, Aqualife, to develop and launch a ‘transformational’ fish vaccinating robot.
Smarter Production Systems
Technology has a big role to play in achieving efficient, diversified and integrated production systems. Deploying wide range of sensors and collecting vast amounts of data as part of Agri-EPI’s Satellite Farm Network will help industry to minimise variance in the food productions systems and develop intelligent based decision support tools to help famers and growers increase productivity and enhance environmental footprint.
All of the Centres are supporting this area. In another example, CIEL is working with a range of partners on the GrassCheckGB project to assist farmers in improving grass growth and utilisation by providing information on grass growth, grass quality and weather conditions. A network of up to 50 grass pilot farms have been established across England, Scotland and Wales.
The Agri-Tech Centres projects support the One Health agenda which recognises the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. The centres are supporting innovation to deliver a comprehensive approach to enabling industry to provide highly nutritious food and link healthy people and a healthy natural environment.