Pioneering Agricultural Innovation

REAP Conference 2014

Agr-Tech Week 2014

Agri-Tech East Conference:

Sophi Taylor Building, NIAB Park Farm, November 12th 2014

Sophi Taylor Building, NIAB Park Farm

Sophi Taylor Building, NIAB Park Farm

By 2030 the UK will need the equivalent of 7 million more hectares of land to support our growing population. It is estimated that with ‘smart use’ of land and technology we could release more benefit from existing land resources. We now have a perfect storm where there is a clearly articulated market need for innovation and an appetite for change.

For farmers and growers ‘total factor productivity’ is a key consideration for the uptake of new approaches and disruptive technologies and this requires a sound evidence base. Agri-Tech East proposes that the East of England takes a lead in identifying what ‘smart use’ means in the real world.

To book a place click here.





10:00               Coffee and networking

10:30               Welcome and introduction

Julius Joel, MD of Greens of Soham and Chair of Agri-Tech East Stakeholder Group.

10:40               Introduction to Agri-Tech East

Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East.


Session 1: The growing environment and needs of producers

Chaired by Prof Chris Gilligan, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge.

10:50               Producer Panel

Dr Ed Moorhouse, Agri-Tech East Stakeholder

Dr Ed Moorhouse

Tony Bambridge, MD of B&C Farming

Richard Hirst, Chairman of Anglian Pea Growers

Dr Ed Moorhouse, Group Technical Director of G’s Fresh.

The industry has seen increasing volatility both in the weather and in farm gate prices. This year in particular there have been major challenges for crop management with new strains of disease and growing resistance to herbicides. Against this background we have also seen increases in land prices and the changes in the structure of the industry, with the rise of farmers’ cooperatives and growers groups.

This session hopes to encourage producers and growers to articulate their challenges to the innovation community. The panel will discuss why issues such as how to increase resilience, mitigate mutual risk, avoid low yield and improve forecasting of demand and yield are key challenges for the industry.


Session 2: Increasing productivity with evidence-based research

Chaired by Colin MacEwan, Head of the British Beet Research Organisation.

11:30               Science into agricultural practice

Helen Ferrier, Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Adviser for the NFU.

11:50               How science can have a real impact within the agricultural industry

Bill Clark

Bill Clark

Bill Clark, Commercial and Technical Director for NIAB.

While under trial conditions yields have increased year-on-year on the farm there have been no real improvements in yield over the last 20 years. The missing link in yield performance is our knowledge of the impact of micro-environmental conditions and an understanding of ‘total factor productivity’ which will allow the translation of research into on-farm performance. For example, this year has been the worst on record for yellow rust with a completely new alien race from the Himalayas infecting the crop. Knowledge of genetics is increasingly bringing the promise of new defences but to avert disaster this year a revision of cultivation strategy was required.

How can farmers determine the economic consequences of a change in strategy? Where is the science evidence-base for policy such as the three-crop rule? How can we get the market working better to cope with volatility?


12:10               Lunch


Session 3: The impact of consumer demand and sustainability on the industry

Chaired by Dale Sanders, Director of John Innes Centre.

13:15               From seed through to consumer – challenges to our food system

REAP 2014 speaker Ian Noble

Ian Noble

Ian Noble, Senior Director at PepsiCo and member of the UK Agri-Tech Leadership Council.

14:00               Helping growers enhance sustainable intensification

Jeremy Macklin, Director of Technology and Innovation at Hutchinsons.

14:20               The role of food manufacturers supporting knowledge transfer and change in the field

Richard Burkinshaw, European Environmental Strategy Manager at Kellogg’s.

Demand for fresh produce has declined as the consumer shifts to frozen and processed products. This trend impacts the varieties of vegetables grown and the investment that is required in post-harvesting and storage, creating challenges throughout the supply chain. Additionally the rising cost of inputs is putting pressure on margins, and there is an increasing need to have systems which reinforce the resilience of farming by allowing growers and their advisors to take informed decisions about sustainable intensification.

A partnership approach is required that shares risk and improves performance; how is the UK Agri-Tech Leadership Council addressing this need and building collaboration?

14:40               Panel session for questions from delegates


Session 4: Creating opportunities for building value in agri-tech

15:00               An introduction to the business plan competition and outlining the business opportunity for entrepreneurs

William Kendall, organic farmer, investor and entrepreneur

A large and growing market within an unpredictable environment opens up new business opportunities for the right players. It is not surprising that the potential of agri-tech is now attracting the interest of entrepreneurs and investors from outside of the traditional industries. Agri-Tech East is working to create a critical mass of farmers, growers, researchers, technologists, entrepreneurs and investors with a mutual interest in this emerging industry to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and approaches.

To facilitate entrepreneurial activity Agri-Tech East is launching a new business plan competition at the conference with the support of leading figures within the industry and beyond.


15:15               Tea break


Session 5: The role of agri-tech in building resilience and improving economic performance

15:45               Start-up Showcase

Calum Murray, Agri-Tech East Stakeholder

Calum Murray

Chaired by Calum Murray, Programme Leader, Agri-Food at Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board).

A number of exciting and innovative start-ups will be present, showcasing some exciting next generation technologies.

With its strong tradition of innovation, farmers in the East of England are used to looking for measures that can provide incremental improvements to productivity. The wide adoption of assisted steering systems by farms of all sizes shows how quickly technology with a strong evidence-base can be adopted.

However, the agricultural industry is knowledge-rich and data-poor so collating the information needed for the economic validation of new technology is currently problematic.

A new generation of low-cost monitors, sensors and data acquisition tools are emerging to meet this need and creating dynamic new ways to apply cost-benefit analysis to the farm environment.


16:45              Closing Remarks

Julius Joel, MD of Greens of Soham and Chair of Agri-Tech East Stakeholder Group.

17:00               Networking

18:00               Event close



To book your place please click here.


The conference will be held on:

Wednesday 12 November 2014, 10:00 – 17:00


Sophi Taylor Building, NIAB Park Farm
Villa Road
Cambridge CB24 9NZ

For a map and further details on how to get to the venue please take a look at the contact page on NIAB’s Park Farm website.

To find out more about Agri-Tech Week 2014 please take a look at the Agri-Tech Week page.