The Innovation Hub (Stand 271) at the Royal Norfolk Show is showing how current research and emerging technologies will help farmers to feed our growing population sustainably. This is a big challenge, researchers predict that by 2030 if food production doesn’t change in the UK that we will need the equivalent of 7 million more hectares to grow the food.
So what do farmers need in order to deliver? A recent report by the NFU ‘Feeding the Future Review’ gave the following research priorities based on farmer input:
- Harness the power of data and digital technologies, including precision farming
- Improve and balance environmental protection with agricultural productivity
- Understand how to build resilience in farm businesses
- Develop labour-saving technologies
- Understand farming’s contribution to the health and wellbeing agenda
These five areas will be explored at the Innovation Hub, which is sponsored by the BBRO (the British Beet Research Organisation), which through investment in research has consistently improved the yield of sugar beet.
The Innovation Hub is made possible by a partnership between Agri-Tech East and the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.
Mark Nicholas, of RNAA comments: “The agri-food industry in the UK is underpinned by world class science but the connection is often not clear. With the Innovation Hub we are looking to show key areas where progress is being made within the areas defined by farmers as priorities and gain feedback on future direction.”
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East comments: “Agri-food is the last major sector to be ‘digitised’ and this represents a major opportunity for companies not traditionally associated with farming. Norfolk has always led innovation in farming practice and the show provides an ideal opportunity to meet people that are open to new ideas and technologies.”
The Innovation Hub will include:
Opening up big data to farmers – Agrimetrics
Information about soils, weather, land use, disease threat and past performance of varieties is needed for good decision-making. Although much of this data is available it is captured in a wide variety of formats and databases and not easily accessible. Agrimetrics, was established as a big data centre for the agri-food sector and it is pulling together a strong set of data that can be used to benefit UK food production. Compatibility is a big issue in the industry. Agrimetrics will be using an interactive demonstration to show how an open data resource can be used to support farmers to benchmark their performance and for companies of all sizes to deliver new products and services.
Clean water with less waste – Wensum Demonstration Test Catchment Project
Working with farmers, the Wensum Project has been testing and assessing how a variety of land management measures can reduce run-off into the river whilst maintaining farm profitability. The University of East Anglia will be displaying a 3D model that demonstrates how agricultural activity can be adjusted to reduce loss of nutrients, there will be a water analysis laboratory and a display of some of the cover crop plants and how their root systems can help. The Wensum is recognised as one of the most important chalk river habitats in the UK, with over 100 plant species and a rich invertebrate fauna.
Soil on your boots, decision making in your hands – SOYL
“The agricultural economy currently faces uncertainty, so it is more important than ever for farmers to have tools to better control their costs and improve performance,” according to Alex Dinsdale, Area Manager for SOYL. The company will be showing how an iPhone app can help farmers improve the precision of their farming. On a single farm, there is a great deal of variation between fields; in topography, soil type, and nutrition levels. SOYL is set to showcase a range of products: to manage variable rate applications, improve soil structure, map soil nutrients and identify variants in phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
Improving communication with cows – Smartbell
Smartbell brings the expertise of an experienced herdsman to an automated dairy system. Using a ‘FitBit’ for cows, it is able to detect changes in behaviour by individual animals that may indicate that they are in pain, becoming fertile, pregnant or unwell or not eating.
Let there be more light – University of Essex
The importance of the length of the growing season to yield is being increasingly understood and the University of Essex will be discussing this with the help of an interactive thermograph.
Waste not want not for a new age – NIAB
As food and other organic waste decompose, flies, bacteria and fungi feeding on it convert the material to another form. This process can be used to create secondary metabolites of enormous commercial importance; antibiotics can be made this way, for example or new types of protein for animal food. Even ingredients for cosmetics can be made from fruit skins, seeds and other ‘waste’ as NIAB will explain.
Just in time spraying – CropAngel
Precision application of agrochemicals, where and when required is the new future. CropAngel is one of the first companies to explore the use of drones for spraying and they will be discussing the latest developments.
Watch the below video for more information (or click here to view on Vimeo)