Young Innovators’ Forum: AgriScience Conference 2018

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Last week we held the second Young Innovators’ Forum AgriScience Conference, with help from NIAB. Once again descending on The Morley Agricultural Foundation, 40 innovators came to learn more about new agri-tech technologies and communication.

Susie Emmett of Green Shoots Productions, kicked things off with a lively presentation focusing on the communication methods we can use in the agri-tech industry, and how to use them better! To paraphrase an excellent quote, all the work going into agri-tech will count for nothing if it’s not communicated well. We covered some of the ways to communicate better visually – both through film and photography. (You can apply for her fully funded course here)

Emily Smith from AHDB was up next talking up the importance of communication between farm and science. She framed her talk with the fact that UK productivity rates are down compared to other countries – is this primarily because research takes so long to get from the lab to the farm in the UK?

Easton and Otley College students hosted a debate on whether Brexit will affect global commodity prices. Both sides of the agreement were very credible and I found myself agreeing with one, then the other! The vote was tight but we were persuaded that it would affect prices…it will be interesting in time to see who was right!

The afternoon saw us rotate round 3 different workshops. My group started with the quantifying soil health session – looking at earthworms with John Innes Centre, and mycorrhizae with NIAB – really putting the field into field lab! In brief, we discovered there is a lot more going on under the soil than perhaps we realise (who knew there are 3 kinds of worms!?). I’d wholly recommend finding out more.

fieldmargin, app developers, had us coming up with ideas for apps, and then how to narrow that down to the basis of what you need. The topics we came up with were really diverse – anything from monitoring chemical store levels to anonymous alert system if you’re worried about a local farmer. It was interesting to see what doesn’t already exist that you would think does, and also gratifying to know fieldmargin are working on some them already – goes to show the value of end user input during development!

Finally, Garford Farm Machinery gave us a rundown of their mechanical weeding machines, in a bid to reduce pesticide use. Using machinery can bring aeration benefits, it’s less labour intensive and will of course help in the face of prospective chemical restriction – but it is slower and needs an identifiable row in order to work.

That’s just a super quick run through of what we covered during the day. What really came through was how important communication is to the success of the industry. As Young Innovators we have the chance to make the industry more open, more transparent and enable that two way flow of information. If you’d like any information on any of the speakers or the topics of the day, please email [email protected]

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