2015 might have been a good harvest for some UK crops, but it has been another challenging year with market volatility, risk and low prices. New innovations can provide one way to help, and we’ll continue to work with our members to do all we can to support them in exploring all the possible options.
As Agri-Tech East’s first full calendar year of trading draws to a close, we’re taking a look back over last year’s agri-tech highlights from the east of England and beyond.
Following a successful pilot in September 2014, we kicked off our monthly Pollinator programme in January 2015 and throughout the year we’ve featured topics such as the Internet of (Agri)Things, new innovations in crop protection, a Pollinator about maximising pollination throughout the rotation, and a tech-based Pollinator looking at new engineering, software and electronics for agriculture.
In the field
Our Special Interest Groups have featured discussions around big data, remote sensing and monitoring, healthy soils and water for agriculture, and have taken us across the region from a field visit to Salle Farms to Rothamsted Research, the Norwich Research Park and NIAB.
One of the things our delegates regularly comment on is the diversity of delegates at our events – including farmers and growers, technologists and research scientists. The prize for one of the most eclectic link has to go to the relationship forged between an agronomist and a plastic moulding company.
Our first year has seen some real highlights, from welcoming the Secretary of State for DEFRA, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP to the Innovation Zone at the Royal Norfolk Show, to the great partnership initiative that was Agri-Tech Week 2015.
At the hub
It was a real privilege to see George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences so positive about agri-tech in the UK and especially in the east of England at the opening of NIAB’s AgriGate Research Hub during Agri-Tech Week. The Hub is one of the projects funded through the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, a scheme which continues to attract interest among agri-tech SMEs based in the east of England and which has funded 39 projects and leveraged £7.7M of private sector investment since its launch in March 2014.
Nationally the agri-tech sector is progressing, with the announcement of three new Centres for Agricultural Innovation in the Comprehensive Spending Review in November, and over 100 projects being supported through the national Agri-Tech Catalyst fund.
We are delighted that some of the links we are helping to forge are leading to submissions to the Catalyst programme and we hope to report on some successful outputs soon.
Spreading the net
Membership of Agri-Tech East has grown over the last year to exceed 70 members, spanning the agri-food value chain, ranging from those doing fundamental discovery research, to applied research and those bringing new technologies to the farm either by being innovative growers, agronomists, or being one of our many members who are agri-tech SMEs developing new technologies to support agriculture.
Our membership is also underpinned by an important group of support providers to the wider ecosystem, such as funding agencies, training organisations, professional service providers and network / membership organisations supporting farmers and researchers.
Looking forward we know there is so much still to do. We have barely begun to scratch the surface of new and existing innovations and practices which can be better or more effectively deployed to help increase productivity, profitability and sustainability across the agri-food value chain.
We believe that connecting people and providing the forum for knowledge exchange and partnership building is the way to achieve this.
We wish you a very peaceful holiday and look forward to working with you again in 2016.