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Triple helix approach to agri-tech innovation underpins UK farming future


Belinda Clarke of Agri-Tech East and Sam Watson Jones from Small Robot Company reveal Harry at REAP 2018
Belinda Clarke of Agri-Tech East and Sam Watson Jones from Small Robot Company reveal Harry at REAP 2018

By delivering a ‘triple-helix’ model for innovation – which brings together industry, research and government – Agri-Tech East is helping to facilitate the rapid growth of the agri-tech sector. Priorities for future investment in agri-tech is the theme for its fifth annual REAP conference, held on 7 November in Cambridge. The event started with an exclusive breakfast meeting where invited farmers were given the ear of government to give input into its R&D proposals, and culminated in a lively debate where experts from different disciplines argue their case for a technology that will provide the greatest returns. (more…)

Agri-Tech Week 2018: Solving the challenges of crop protection


Professor John Senior, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research and Enterprise, introduces the event
Professor John Senior, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research and Enterprise, introduces the event

This event at the University of Hertfordshire explored the innovative and cutting edge solutions being developed to improve crop protection in the face of environmental change.
The University of Hertfordshire works collaboratively with farmers, crop protection and plant breeding companies, government research bodies and agricultural charities, and the event emphasised that research is strongly linked to industry needs.
Some of these collaborations were the focus of discussion at the event, including: understanding interactions between light leaf spot and phoma stem canker in oil seed rape (ADAS, RSK, Uni of Herts); identifying resistance to phoma stem canker and light leaf spot (Uni of Herts, KWS); potato cycst nematode diagnostics (Syngenta and Uni of Herts through Keith Davie’s start up); and an automated smart trap for wheat pathogen detection which is near commercialisation (Uni of Hert, Bayer, FERA).
A number of cross sector initiatives were present at the event, such as Hertfordshire Science Partnership, which is involved in delivering healthy and sustainable food economy in Letchworth Garden City.
Also represented was The Green Triangle, a partnership between BRE, Rothamsted Research, St Albans City and District Council and Oaklands College, and discussion focused on how they are looking to promote green industries and sustainability (for example agriculture, environmental, construction etc).
A prime example of the application of a technology used in one discipline (in this case from the Physics Department) to agriculture is the use of optical remote sensing technology (LIDAR) for agriculture e.g. bio-forecasting. It could also be used for mapping water flow and monitoring soil erosion. LIDAR is extensively used for mapping in archaeology, and although it is still at proof-of-concept stage it sounds very exciting.
The event concluded with a tour of the University’s New Science Building; Laura Bouvet commented “Thank you very much for the tour – It was great to learn about exciting research on spore traps, genetic resistance against OSR diseases and nematode control.”
The afternoon concluded with a tour of the New Science Building

The afternoon concluded with a tour of the New Science Building

See more about Agri-Tech Week 2018

Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise joins UK Science Park Association

Meet the Network

Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE, part of the historic, world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, has joined the United Kingdom Science Park Association (UKSPA). UKSPA represents over 130 science, technology and innovation parks in the UK, encompassing well over 4000 companies, and exists to represent innovative knowledge-based environments.
Nicole Sadd, RoCRENicole Sadd, Executive Director of RoCRE comments on the importance of being part of UKSPA: “It’s vital that the innovation centres we build here at RoCRE are fit for purpose and we’re looking forward to building many fruitful relationships with other like-minded parks and organisations. Being part of UKSPA will help us ensure that RoCRE is not only firmly on the map in terms of our state-of-the-art facilities and offering as a centre for innovation and collaboration, but will also help us build a network of relationships across the UK with other parks, to share ideas and best practice. Connecting with these businesses will cement our position in UK innovation culture. Of course, we also want to look at how we can continually keep up with and exceed the competition!”
“UKSPA are delighted to welcome RoCRE on board” says Jim Duvall, Executive Director of UKSPA. “Our work to promote the UK’s Science and Innovation sector is greatly enhanced by the scale and growth of our membership and RoCRE are an important addition to our Association. UKSPA’s mission is also to help deliver the ambitious plans that RoCRE has to expand their capacity to deliver even greater impact in the future.”
For more information, go to or contact Claire Flawn, Marketing, Tel: 01582 938175.

Agri-Tech Week 2018: Big data and the supply chain


Helping producers benefit from objective consumer insights was one of the subjects discussed at ‘Big Data and the Supply Chain’,  the Norfolk-based Agri-Tech Week event hosted by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association in partnership with University of East Anglia and Easton & Otley College.
Delegates got an overview of how different types of data can be used across the food supply chain. At the field level data includes: yield, weather (temperature, wind, rain fall), fuel consumption, engine performance. At the livestock level it will be: carcass composition, gut health, indoor environment data such as temperature, humidity etc. At the consumer level it includes: shopping habits such as where customers shop, what they buy, how often and how much is spent.  (more…)

Exciting programme of interactive events launched at REAP


“The discussions and debate you have heard today is just the start,” Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, said at REAP. “Ideas generation is an essential part of the innovation process and we will be continuing this with a series of inspirational events in 2019.”
The outline programme is on the website now.
The focus of Agri-Tech East’s approach is to help frame the challenges so that they can be understood by individuals with expertise in other areas. This leads to collaborations between people that wouldn’t otherwise meet, which can stimulate new ideas.
A good example of the type of projects that can emerge is this collaboration between two Agri-Tech East members: Sentry, one of the largest farming companies in the UK, and early-stage company Yagro.

Met thorough Agri-Tech East event

John Barrett, Sentry
John Barrett, Director at Sentry Norfolk

John Barrett is Director at Sentry Norfolk and here’s what he had to say about Yagro: “At Sentry we regularly review our farming practices to stay ahead of the curve, especially in this volatile time for UK farming. As a large farming company with many sites, it is essential we have best business practice across all farming operations.
“We came to know about Yagro through Agri-Tech East and watched them from inception in 2016, keen to see how a new player in the industry would get on and differentiate itself. On behalf of our landowners and investors, we needed confidence that Yagro’s technology and business model would work.
“Our farms bought fuel in different ways; some through buying groups, others shopped around, and some had sole supply relationships. We wanted a unified best practice that all our farms could use – and that saved us time and money.
“We benchmarked our fuel buying against Yagro’s independent market data. The analysis showed that using the Yagro Marketplace for our fuel buying was an obvious way forward.”

Has it saved you money?

Yagro CEO Gareth Daviesat the Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2015
Yagro CEO Gareth Davies at the Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2015

“Yes, and plenty of it too! We’ve already saved nearly £4,000, and on track to save around £45k over a full year.
“What’s difficult to calculate is the time saving: some of our farms would spend a couple of hours on the phone ringing around suppliers just to get a price. Now, technology does it all for us, and we can focus on the value-adding aspects of farming, knowing that Yagro’s independent tech tool is working on our behalf in the background.”

Excited to be at the forefront 

“We are excited to continue development with Yagro, building more technologies to help us on farm, and it is great to be at the forefront of tech in UK agriculture. With savings north of £120k per year to be had, it’s a no-brainer.”
If you want to put innovation at the heart of your organisation in 2019 – put the events in your diary now!

Nova Extraction launches world’s first industrial off-grid essence extractor

Agri-TechE Article

Increasing interest in the use of herbal essences and cannabis oil for health and wellbeing has created a demand for high quality, pure botanical extracts. Early-stage company Nova Extraction has developed the world’s first industrial, off-grid, clean-tech extractor. It is now available for flower, herb and food producers to rent, providing producers with affordable and consistent technology to extract flavours or fragrances in-field. The announcement comes as part of REAP’s Start Up Showcase in Cambridge this week (7 November).

Alex Novitskiy, Nova Extraction, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Alex Novitskiy, Nova Extraction, at REAP 2018

Nova Extraction’s new autonomous extractor uses supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) technology, originally developed for decaffeination of green coffee beans. Unlike other widely-used forms of extraction, supercritical CO2 separates essences without degradation or impurities. However, this high quality comes at a cost.
Nova Extraction’s Alex Novitskiy explains: “Supercritical extraction equipment is usually super expensive, so even the top five processors in the world try to outsource extraction, rather than own the equipment.”
Company co-founders Alex and Sergey Soshin re-engineered the process, designing and building every piece of their new equipment from scratch in their workshop. The equipment includes a smart-energy generation system to enable efficient off-grid processing.
Alex continues: “We’ve looked at how we can reduce the cost of fabrication and have designed a unique piece of equipment that can be deployed almost anywhere in the world, without the need for electricity or water.”
The low operating temperature of the CO2 extraction lends itself to protecting fragile fragrances, such as lavender, for high-end perfumes. Nova Extraction is also gaining interest from hemp growers about the extraction of cannabinoid oil for health benefits; and with herb producers about how to preserve over-production. The flavour and fragrance of rosemary, for example, is widely extracted in Europe to add to products ranging from memory aids to hair conditioners and Christmas stuffing.
“We have been speaking to farmers in Yorkshire, who produce herbs for restaurants, about how they can preserve this kind of crop – in, say, an essence – if they overproduce,” says Alex.
“We developed Nova Extraction to break the barrier of price for producers, as we believe there is a big demand for an easy pay-as-you-go rental model for supercritical extraction equipment. We’re seeking first-adopters to trial the equipment in the UK next year.”
Nova Extraction is one of seven emerging agri-tech companies featuring in this year’s REAP Start Up Showcase, hosted by membership network Agri-Tech East to profile the next big breakthroughs in agricultural innovation.
The start up’s unique self-sufficient Supercritical extractor can process half a tonne of raw material a day and the company plans to build a larger model that will enable increased in-field throughput for producers to 2.5 tonnes of raw material per day. The larger model will fit into a standardised, 20-foot shipping container to enable flexibility of movement depending on international, seasonal need.
For more information visit
Nova Extraction launches world’s first industrial off-grid essence extractor