Agri-Tech Week 2018: Above, Below and Around at Essex Uni


University of Essex  launched its new Plant Science Innovation Centre at its Agri-Tech Week event and showcased its £11.8 million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) building in this Agri-Tech Week event.

The delegates enjoyed a journey  “Above, Below and Around”  with a number of demonstrations and talks about drones, agricultural robotics, plant health, soil health and a lot of other exciting research.

Jim Stevens from the School of Biological Sciences, Uni of Essex looking at chlorophyll fluorescence in strawberries.

The day started with Prof Tracy Lawson introducing the research in her group which is focused on photosynthesis, acclimation and stress. The group has pioneered research into chlorophyll fluorescence to measure plant health, from nutrient deficiency through to disease susceptibility.

Going below ground to look at biology and biodiversity of soil featured a talk by Dr Alex Dumbrell. He is investigating the response of Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, a beneficial type of fungi, to different levels of CO2. He is untangling data to better understand what this means in the context of climate change.

Dr Javier Andreu, lecturer in computer science at Uni of Essex poses with humanoid robot Pepper and Dr Kirstie Cochrane, EIRA director.

Presentations included a discussion of strawberry production at Tiptree – famous for their  delicious jams – to support the robotics, they are looking at the psychology of strawberry harvesting by tracking the eye movements of the pickers.

Laura Bouvet said it was a very enjoyable event: “It’s been a really good event today, with collaboration across sectors. It was interesting to see how Tiptree is collaborating with engineering dept at Essex Uni.

“A key message that came out during the networking and the presentations, was that the farmers were in the room to put some of the research outcomes into perspective. For example, looking at the Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in the soil and UAV for surveying.

“Dr Kirstie Cochrane rounded off an excellent afternoon of talks by describing how the University is enabling innovation in AI and biotech with the multi-partner project EIRA.”

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