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Using photosynthesis insights to optimise plant performance – Gardin

Meet the Network

Gardin’s technology provides an early indication of plant stress by measuring the photosynthetic performance of a plant growing in either a vertical farm or greenhouse. The system uses a robotic sensor to monitor the crop in real time.

In the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show, the team from Gardin will be discussing how the system provides growers with insights into plant health that can easily be actioned, improving yields and quality, and lowering costs.

We caught up with Fabrizio Ticchiarelli, Lead Biologist at Gardin, ahead of the show to ask about recent developments.

Q. As your technology is giving actionable insights, would it be possible to use this information to automatically optimise the growing conditions – for example adjusting light levels, humidity etc?

Fabrizio Ticchiarelli, Gardin
Fabrizio Ticchiarelli, Gardin

Yes, we are definitely looking at responding to the insights in real time – we call it Real-time Response Agriculture.

By using the photosynthetic patterns in leafy crops, we have been able to automate watering strategies with great results. We can now create optimised watering recipes for the crop and routinely grow plants according to these specifications. The crops outperform those grown with static watering patterns.

We have used a similar approach to optimise light levels and these have given impressive results both in terms of yield and quality. Ultimately our systems will be able to provide similar recommendations with regards to parameters such as temperature and CO2.

We deliver our alerts both visually to the grower and as part of an API. This means that any grower already using a farm management system will be able to see these responses within their existing system.

Q. With your knowledge of photosynthetic pathways, are you able to gain insights into how to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis or to select varieties based on photosynthetic performance? For example, does increasing carbon dioxide levels and providing light at particular wavelengths boost growth?

It is an interesting area and we are starting to see users in breeding and biotech departments adopt our sensing to support the screening of varieties across a variety of parameters, from vigour, to stress tolerance and the ability to resist pathogens.

Photosynthesis is one of the first processes to respond when things are not right, and it is often predictive of overall performance of the crop. I believe it is a beautifully simple and elegant tool to speed up variety selection.

Q. Do you have any trials underway?

Yes, we have been running an 18-month research programme funded by Innovate UK called project SysSen.

In the project, we tested hundreds of light conditions and found very interesting relationships between the plant and light quality – specifically the ratio between certain wavelengths. These relationships were not just yield, but also nutritional content, flavour and appearance.

Very interestingly, not all crops responded in the same way, so it is a fantastic tool to customise crop appearance/flavour to customer demands.

Q What will you be demonstrating in the Innovation Hub?

We will have one of our sensors on the stand so that we can give interactive demonstrations of Gardin’s user interface and robotic sensor.

Gardin sensor in use
Gardin sensor in use

Gardin is appearing in the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show.
Read more about the 2023 Innovation Hub >>

Innovation Hub 2023

Early alert of disease for arable crops from FOTENIX

Meet the Network

FOTENIX uses a patented spectral camera and light setup to provide early warning of disease in oil seed rape (OSR) and wheat crops. It is developing a monitor that can be mounted on a tractor or robot, such as those from Small Robot Company or Saga Robotics, enabling early detection and intervention before significant losses.

The system has been shown to be capable of detecting light leaf spot and phoma in OSR and septoria in wheat in days, compared to months by traditional methods. Through continuous monitoring it can also provide evidence of disease control or re-emergence post-application.

FOTENIX will be talking about its tractor mounted disease alert system in the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show; ahead of the Show we asked Charles Veys about developments.

Controlled environment agriculture is really our bread and butter at the moment – glasshouses, polytunnels. For these environments, the system can be used out-of-the-box to provide early detection of disease and precision application of a treatment.

We are looking to extend the functionality of the technology to develop a tractor mounted system that would provide continuous monitoring of the crop each time you pass through it on a tractor, looking for fungal disease and weeds such as blackgrass.

SPRAYBot Field Trials with FOTENIX tech (web)
FOTENIX Enabled Diagnostics mounted on a tractor

In trials at Cockle Park Farm, we’ve found that leaf spot in oil seed rape can be discovered within five or six days of infection, whereas usually you wouldn’t see it in the field for about four or five months. This enables a larger window for control of the disease.

A tractor-based system would be cheaper than using a drone and would reduce the amount of fieldwalking done by agronomists. If you were able to give the agronomist a map showing the areas of concern, they can be more efficient and cover a wider area.

We are good at detection but would prefer to work with an agronomist to provide diagnosis and recommendations. There are a number of reasons for that, but we don’t want to over-prescribe. An agronomist is best placed to decide what kind of coverage of disease is acceptable, as there is a trade-off between cost of the product and impact on yield.

Farmers often say they can’t see the impact of an application, but with our system they would be able to see if the disease is being controlled or continues to spread. This would provide evidence for new treatments, particularly biological alternatives.

We have demonstrated that the system works over two metres but we are looking for 24 metres to gain real traction and we are working towards a demonstration of that next year.

We are working closely with other technology companies to enable inter-operability with existing farm management systems.

Being demonstrated on the stand

FOTENIX Enabled Diagnostics – live demonstration of disease and weed detection on a tractor-mounted unit with screen.

Digital Agronomy – a digital twin of the field generated by Fotenix which shows hot spots for disease in the crop.

FOTENIX is appearing in the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show.
Read more about the 2023 Innovation Hub >>

Innovation Hub 2023

Pick the winners by profiling a leaf – LCG Genomics

Meet the Network

Some ten percent of raspberry plants produce yellow fruits that are not commercially acceptable but it can take years to identify those plants. Now, with LGC Genomics’ technology, farmers and breeders can have the leaves analysed to determine the genotype and find out quickly which plants have markers for yellow fruit, saving years of otherwise wasted effort.

In the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show, LGC Genomics will be discussing how farmers can use their technology to determine which of the varieties they are growing are more resilient to local conditions and how it can accelerate breeding programmes for breeders of all sizes.

Ahead of the show we spoke to Chris Roe-Bullion of LGC about the technology.

We’ve been involved in ag-bio for over 20 years but started to use our high-throughput technology to provide Covid testing during the pandemic and have since expanded our work in human healthcare.

We work with several of the larger well-known breeders, but also with soft fruit growers and even individual farmers in some cases.

There are farmers who ask us things like ‘why am I seeing mildew infection on this crop but not that one?’ and we can give them some answers. We can genotype the plant and say ‘actually, it’s because this plant is genetically different to that one’. We can run small trials for farmers to provide those insights, they just need to collect leaf samples.

Chris Roe-Bullion, LGC
Chris Roe-Bullion, LGC

The service we offer is called marker assisted breeding, which helps breeders identify which strains have the attributes they’re looking for much more quickly than waiting for the plant to grow to maturity.

For example, we work with Angus Soft Fruits on their raspberries. About 10% of all raspberries will produce yellow fruit, which no-one wants, they’re not commercially viable, but the plants are phenotypically identical to normal raspberry plants, and take two years to reach maturity.

We can identify which plants will produce yellow fruit at a very early stage, saving them two years of work and the money associated with it.

While we do support the larger breeders, we can also help the smaller guys and can usually improve their productivity with our tools.

LGC Genomics is appearing in the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show.
Read more about the 2023 Innovation Hub >>

Innovation Hub 2023

Members at Cereals 2023

Agri-TechE Article

Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 June 2023
Thoresby Estate, Nottinghamshire

Cereals logo

Cereals is the arable event of the season, offering unmissable networking and educational opportunities.

We caught up with some of our members at Cereals and put together a playlist for you. In order:

  • Prodata talk how to use weather systems effectively
  • Agrecruit discuss current trends in recruiting in agriculture
  • NIAB give us a tour of the soil pit, including how cover crops affect soil structure
  • Timac Agro talked us through trends in applications to crops
  • NIAB launch a new High Carbon Crops project
  • Rothamsted Research and Cardiff University discuss the social engagament aspects of their rock weathering project locking up carbon

Showcasing the latest in arable farming, Cereals will welcome over 17,000 farmers and agronomists as well as service and product displays from 400 arable-focussed exhibitors and sponsors. Among them will be a number of Agri-TechE members.

Cereals 2023 sponsors include Agri-TechE members:

The Exhibition includes:

Stand 137 – AgRecruit

Stand 138 – AHDB

Stand 408 – Bayer

Stand 822 – Drone Ag

Stand 908 – Harper Adams University

Stand 223 – NFU Mutual

Stand 405 & 406 – NIAB

Stand 303- PGRO

Stand 222 – ProData Weather Systems

Stand 306 – Rothamsted Research

Stand 233 – Savills

Stand 162 – Sentry

Stand 711 – Timac Agro

Stand 206 – University of Lincoln

Sessions with participants from Agri-TechE members include:

UK Drainage – Where are we now?
13 June, 10:00

Nitrogen Use Efficiency: the new KPI for cereals after yield and protein
13 June, 14:15

Great soils, great crops
13 June, 14:30

Working together for business success

13 June, 13:00

New thinking, New technology
14 June, 14:30

Net Zero and climate change
14 June, 13:00

Framework for improving nitrogen efficiency (FINE)
14 June, 14:15

Find out more about Cereals at

Take a look through some photos from Cereals 2022