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Sofa Session: Back to the Future at REAP 2021

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Looking at an issue from a different perspective creates the opportunity for innovation, and this is a feature of the Sofa Session of REAP. It aims to draw together the themes of the day and challenge current thinking in a free-flowing discussion.
This year the session was chaired by Vicky Foster, Head of the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO), and included:

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2021

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

The REAP 2021 Start-Up Showcase, sponsored by Rothamsted Enterprises, features a line-up of exciting early-stage agri-tech ventures – energy saving for glasshouses; pollination innovation; baits for insect pests; diagnostics for plant health; yield prediction that helps inform decision making on interventions and automation for asparagus and raspberry harvesting.

Some are seeking investment, all your advice and input, while others are already near market.

Who from the cohort of REAP 2021 will make it into the Agri-TechE Hall of Fame?

The REAP 2021 Start-Up Showcase is sponsored by Rothamsted Enterprises.

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.

REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Fieldwork Robotics to deliver automated harvester for raspberries

Agri-TechE

Fieldwork Robotics is on track to deliver an automated harvester for raspberries in 2022 that will be available for hire on a pay-per-kilo basis with selected growers, and is currently fundraising to speed its development.  
Rui Andres, co-founder of Fieldwork Robotics, says: “We are aiming to raise £5m in this year’s funding round to begin commercial manufacture in 2022. We are currently able to manufacture small batches, but it’s not optimised for an assembly line – so this is the next step. 
“We are looking forward to meeting potential investors at the REAP conference but also growers – we’ve developed an automated harvester for raspberries, but we have also proven the capability to adapt to other crops and tasks. What we want to understand now is where should we focus next as we build our technology roadmap.  
“We would be very happy to discuss with growers their needs, their costs, and see where automation fits in terms of priorities.” 

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

AgriSound launches timely pollination monitor at REAP 2021

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Targeted pollination can double the yield of soft fruit and increase the quality of the produce. To enable farmers to increase pollinator levels, AgriSound is launching an insect listening device called POLY, which displays a heat-map on a smartphone to show insect activity. It highlights pollination deficits on-farm as well as providing proof that interventions increase ecosystem services. 
Casey Woodward, CEO of AgriSound, presented in the REAP 2021 Start-Up Showcase. He says: “We would love to meet people that have a genuine interest in getting pollination right and want to be working with us as early adopters.  
“Once you have the ability to tell the difference between species of insects, you can then monitor biodiversity, which will provide evidence of natural capital assets.  
“We’d like to talk to farmers and growers about their challenges and find out how to use our data in new ways.” 
Find out more at agrisound.io 

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

New bait spray from Microbiotech traps the fruit-fly before it spoils the strawberries

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

A new molasses bait spray, being developed by Cambridge-based Microbiotech in collaboration with NIAB, will lure Spotted-Wing Drosophila, an invasive fruit fly, to its death before it has a chance to lay its eggs on fruit crops. The new product is not attractive to beneficial insects and only uses a tiny amount of insecticide against one of UK horticulture’s biggest threats.
Prof Ralph Noble, CEO and co-founder of Microbiotech, presented in the Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2021. He says bait sprays offer a huge time-saving:
“The amount of time required to apply a bait spray is probably about 10% of the time required to apply a standard spray, just because you don’t need to be covering the entire crop. You also don’t have to return to fill up the tank so often because you’re applying 40L per hectare rather than 500L.”
Ralph is keen to meet both fruit and mushroom growers interested in trials.
“We would be happy to include them in our development programmes. It’s always nice to do experiments on sites where the grower is actively getting something out of it.
“We’d also like to meet any companies who are testing new products, new growing media and new control methods; we’d be interested in including those products in our experiments. We also do commercial trials for companies, testing products against pest and disease problems.”
Find out more at microbiotech.co.uk

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Gardin’s new device gives rapid insights into plant physiology

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

Detecting changes in the rate of photosynthesis can give a fast indication of the plant physiological state, resulting from the levels of water, light, temperature or nutrient levels. Gardin announces at REAP 2021 it has developed an optical phenotyping sensor, this low-cost device gives the grower timely recommendations for action.  
Fabrizio Ticchiarelli, Lead Biologist at Gardin, presented in the Start-up Showcase at REAP 2021. He says: “We wanted to provide a tool that measures plant health, produce quality, ripeness, and plant yield – but we want to be able to measure that directly, to be able to react quickly to problems or engineer desired responses, such as fruiting or increasing the content of specific nutrients. 
“Existing phenotyping devices measure plant features such as height, leaf size, shape and texture, which allows them to report on how well the plant is growing. However, these physical plant metrics are the end-result of processes in the plant cells that have been going on for days or weeks, so there is a lag in these metrics.  
“To get a much more immediate indication of plant health and activity, you need to measure plant cell processes directly. That’s what we’re doing.  
“The optical phenotyping sensor we are currently developing uses chlorophyll fluorescence, which is a signal that allows us to monitor photosynthesis directly, telling us how efficiently photosynthesis is occurring in each leaf and each part of the plant. 
“Our prototype has completed trials in controlled environments with key clients; we would now like to talk to more growers and to tech developers about integration with automated systems and applications within precision agriculture.” 
Find out more at gardin.co.uk 

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Albotherm’s greenhouse coating maintains optimum temperature

Agri-TechE

A heat sensitive coating for greenhouse glass, that would maintain optimum temperatures all year around and remove the annual cost of applying and removing shading, is being developed by University of Bristol spin-out Albotherm. 
Molly Allington, CEO and Co-founder of Albotherm, says: 
“When the required temperature is reached, the transition from transparent to white is nearly instantaneous – a few seconds; it’s just a matter of the glass having the time to change temperature, and then it’s very, very quick.” 
Molly is looking forward to talking to potential partners, growers, and investors at REAP 2021. 
“At the moment we’re based in Future Space, a start-up incubator based at UWE in Bristol, and testing the products in the lab. We are talking to partners about further product trials and scale-up of our facilities.” 
Find out more at albotherm.com. 

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Muddy Machines’ robotic harvester life-saver for UK asparagus

Agri-TechE

Agri-tech start-up Muddy Machines has developed an automated asparagus harvesting platform capable of distinguishing spears from weeds, even under challenging field conditions. The robot uses an automated gripper arm to cut the asparagus that is within the grower’s spec and place it in a container, and it can predict yields, thereby increasing the value of the crop. 
Florian Richter, Founder and CEO of Muddy Machines, says: “Timing is everything for the asparagus crop and we are working on getting a commercial robot in the field for next season. 
“We are also looking at other crops, such as tenderstem broccoli, following an Innovate UK grant, and would like to talk to farmers and growers at REAP about their challenges and the opportunities for automation and improved data collection. 
“We have had an enthusiastic response to our pre-seed funding round with robotics-focussed investors and we’re now looking at additional equity and grant funding opportunities.”  
Find out more at muddymachines.com  

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

In the Beginning – there is Emerging Agri-Tech

Agri-TechE
At REAP 2021 we heard first-hand from scientists about how they hope their research will make a difference in the industry. We asked all our speakers to share their discoveries, based around a specific date, time or event that has inspired their work.

Click the links below to read more about their work.

Breakfast:
A good breakfast sets you up for the day…

…it also provides energy in a timely manner, just like nutrient additives do for crops. But can the next generation of nutrient pellets also help us move toward net zero?

1978:
The summer of flares and disco glitz…

… also saw the first steps toward facial recognition for humans. Fast forward 30 years and researchers are applying this technology in sheep to better understand their behaviour and assess their health.

1660:
Newton’s prism was key…

…in his discovery of the colour spectrum, and went on to grace the cover of Pink Floyd’s classic album “the Dark Side of the Moon”. But can splitting light into its component colours also provided a spotlight into the production of high density salads?

1843:
A humble crop of wheat was drilled…

…in what was to become the world’s longest running field experiment, revealing the importance of nitrogen to crop development. Now AI and computer vision are revealing new insights to nitrogen use by plants for more efficient input application.

1970s:
A decade that saw the “Great British Heatwave”…

…as well as challenges in the availability of power and commodities such as sugar. Plant hormones were also discovered – and have now helped inspire a new approach to smart irrigation.

1982:
The year blackgrass herbicide resistance was first detected.

After 40 years of resistance to commercial herbicides, are there viable alternatives to manage this weed?

1950:
Sci-fi writer Aldous Huxley made a bold prediction…

…farming would be autonomous by the year 2000. So what is the latest for robotics and automation on farms and how close is it to widespread commercial reality?

1880:
The first electric train was tested…

…GMT was invented, the Gilbert and Sullivan classic “Pirates of Penzance” was first staged, and Charles Darwin published his seminal book on plant movement, where he first eluded to the notion that plants can sense time. How are these circadian rhythms today informing key activities in the farming calendar?

1980s:
Whilst the UK and Europe were dancing away…

…to the new sound of techno, a surprisingly different type of techno was emerging on the opposite side of the globe. How does intensive ‘Techo-Grazing’ compare to more conventional methods of livestock grazing?

Autumn:
Falling leaves look pretty…

…but as the climate changes, how are warmer autumns changing the patterns of disease transmission in crops such as oil seed rape?

Date Night:
With Tinder, Uber and Deliveroo…

…all of which have been enabled by satellite GPS. But how will advances in satellite applications enable tomorrow’s farmers to embrace precision agriculture?

Emerging Agri-Tech at REAP 2021 is sponsored by BBSRC.

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Jonathan Gill: Hands Free Farm

Agri-TechE

Robots can work around the clock, the Hands-Free Farm aims to demonstrate the benefits of smaller, more precise machines and to understand how existing farm equipment could be adapted for robotics – and so pave the way for wider adoption of the technology.
Jonathan Gill is looking at the benefits for soil health of using smaller, lighter machinery.
He says: “The challenge with conventional farm machinery is its size. Rather than try to automate the larger 180 Hp UK average Tractor, the project is aiming to show that fleets of smaller & lighter 45- 50 HP equipment can be just as effective when operated economically by turning them in to robots. so they can do less damage to the soil structure and have ability to be used over a greater range of conditions without adverse impact, and of course run 24/7.”
“These days we’re seeing many farmers in Europe working part time, and the same is true of the next generation of farmers in the UK – machinery allows farmers to potentially maintain a secondary income.”
The Hands-Free Farm has just completed its second year and will be planting its third crop for a 2022 harvest.

STOP PRESS – Announcement from Jonathan Gill at REAP 2021

“Very Excited to annonce that Omex is a new partner for the Hands Free Farm with Pix4dFields and Amazone to showcase the precision application of our liquid fertiliser.”

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Mark Else: How is the discovery of plant hormones, in the 1970s, inspiring a new approach to smart irrigation today?

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

The Crop Science and Production Systems group at NIAB has been working on deficit irrigation techniques for over 20 years and have shown in scientific experiments that water savings of over 40% can be achieved whilst improving crop productivity and quality, reducing waste and lowering emissions.
Group leader Mark Else explains: “Although the benefits of various deficit irrigation have been proven scientifically, these techniques require careful management, especially during changeable weather, and so implementing them in commercial production systems has been too risky. Instead, we’ve focussed on developing and delivering precision irrigation strategies for commercial growers, where demand is matched with supply”
“But recent advances in sensor technologies, wireless systems and access to real-time data has opened up new opportunities for us. Working with our partners and suppliers, we’ve developed sensor networks and predictive models that enable accurate monitoring of what’s going on in the crop and in the substrate, now and over the next few days, and so 20 years later, we now have the tools and the scientific knowledge to help growers to better manage deficit Irrigation and to reap the rewards.”

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups. 

Liangxiu Han: 1843: What did the longest running crop experiment discover about nitrogen?

Agri-TechE

Nitrogen is the nutrient with the biggest impact on crop growth but monitoring its use by the plant is problematic.
Prof. Han has led the development of innovative precision agriculture solutions such as automated crop disease diagnosis and automated nitrogen diagnosis tools using big data/machine learning/ AI, robotics and various large datasets from remote sensing (Satellite, Drone), Smartphone and IoT to address challenges to food security.
Prof. Han explains: “Current methods of analysing crop metabolism are destructive and time consuming and require laboratory analysis of plant material. Measuring nitrogen in soil is also difficult as it is impacted by soil type, temperature, moisture content and microbial activity, so removing samples can also change the relative amounts of different forms of nitrogen.
“What is required is an autonomous, non-destructive method of measuring nitrogen that can determine the gap between bioavailability in the soil and the requirement from the plant.”
Prof. Han is working with Dr Mark Lee, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, an expert in plant leaf and soil analysis, and Aron Kisdi of GMV Innovative Solutions, developers of the robotic rover platform to offer automated intelligent soil and plant nitrogen diagnosis.

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups.