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Creating an opportunity out of challenge – Defra chief scientific adviser to give a keynote at REAP

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

Increasingly frequent ‘extreme’ events create a challenge but also an opportunity for agriculture if science can keep pace and answer the questions arising from farmers. The Agri-TechE REAP 2023 conference, ‘Adaptation through innovation; beyond the comfort zone’ provides a forum for accelerating innovation in agri-tech.

Professor Gideon Henderson, Defra Chief Scientific Adviser, and David Exwood, livestock farmer and NFU Vice President, are the keynote speakers and they will create a context for discussions in this highly interactive event, which also features emerging agri-tech and a start-up showcase.

Prof. Henderson will be framing the direction of travel for agricultural science and discussing the challenge of balancing net zero and biodiversity with food production.

Science and farming is a two-way conversation

Professor Gideon Henderson became Defra Chief Scientific Adviser in October 2019. In this capacity, he is responsible for ensuring that Defra’s policymaking and delivery is informed by the best possible science and innovation, across the full range of the Department’s environmental and agricultural responsibilities.

Henderson says: “I see it as a two-way conversation: science is offering new options and opportunities for farming, and farmers are asking new questions of science. The activities of organisations like Agri-TechE are very important in supporting this dialogue.

Henderson is also Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford. Before his appointment to Defra, his research looked at the viability of routes to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and he led the Royal Society Report on Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR), published in 2018.

Recommendations from the report included creating demonstration projects of land based GGR approaches, and developing techniques for monitoring and measurement that would enable verification and validation of the emerging approaches for GGR.

Gideon Henderson
Gideon Henderson

Need for science-based verification of environmental outcomes

Prof Henderson comments that such science-based verification of environmental outcomes are equally important across many areas of government agriculture and environmental policy.

“For example, in terms of soil carbon, we don’t currently have a broad enough range of measurement tools to assess soil carbon content, but we’re improving with some clever innovations in that space. There is hope that we can soon take higher-resolution and more accurate measurements.

“One pressure in our carbon budgets is peat degradation. So much of our Grade 1 agricultural land is peatland, and although we are still at the earlier part of the learning curve than we are with woodlands, we are moving along that curve with farmers.

“The simple statement ‘we want to maintain food production’ is quite a tricky concept. I look forward to hearing discussion about achieving such production in the face of environmental pressures at REAP.”

Agri-TechE’s REAP 2023 conference ‘Adaptation through innovation; beyond the comfort zone’ is to be held on 8th November 2023 at the Rowley Mile Conference Centre, Newmarket, UK. Find out more at reapconference.co.uk.


REAP 2023 logo

REAP Conference 2023:
Adaptation Through Innovation; Beyond the Comfort Zone

Wednesday 8th November, 9:30 am – 6:30 pm
Rowley Mile Conference Centre, Newmarket

Surviving and thriving under increasingly extreme and unpredictable challenges is the theme of the 2023 REAP conference. To build a productive, profitable and sustainable agri-food industry, we must move away from the comfort zone and become open to the new opportunities that exist when we ‘stretch’.  Be a part of that future – bring yourself and your ideas to REAP.

reapconference.co.uk

Tesco Sustainable Agriculture Manager to join the discussions at REAP

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Peter Illman, Sustainable Agriculture Manager at Tesco, is supportive of agri-tech innovation. He is responsible for the flagship Tesco Agri T-Jam pitch event, which announced this year’s winner NatureMetrics on 15th September, and he has led the UK’s largest-ever commercial rollout of low-carbon fertiliser, which has won high praise from the industry.

Tesco part of Supply Chain panel at REAP 2023

Peter will be joining Andy Griffiths, Head of Sustainable Procurement at Diageo, and Naomi Pendleton, Group Sustainability Director at AM Fresh, for the Supply Chain Panel at Agri-TechE’s REAP conference. He will discuss the approaches that the retailer is adopting to improve resilience across the industry.

Sustainable supply chains

Tesco has made a commitment to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket by 2030.

Peter comments: “Part of our responsibility to consumers is that by adapting, learning and investing, we aim to guarantee both a secure supply of affordable, fresh food, and a healthy, thriving food system.

“We have seen many exciting, innovative companies coming through the Tesco Agri T-Jam, but they need practical support in order to scale; co-development with early adopters is an important element of this.”

Peter takes responsibility for delivery of the sustainable agriculture strategy within fresh produce, working with key stakeholders to deliver net zero, manage pesticides across its global supply base and deliver Tesco’s commitment to LEAF and nature.

Peter Illman
Peter Illman, Sustainable Agriculture Manager at Tesco

Low carbon fertiliser trial with farmers

To support this the company has recently announced that it will extend its trial of eight market-ready low-carbon fertilisers manufactured from food waste, chicken litter and algae.

The aim was to determine the most eco-friendly and cost-effective alternatives to conventional fertiliser.

During the first year of the trial, five suppliers cultivated 1,300 hectares of land using different fertilisers, producing 70,000 tonnes of fresh produce – including lettuces, carrots, and potatoes.

Initial results found the alternatives were just as effective as conventional fertilisers while slashing emissions by up to 50%, with no extra cost to farmers.

Peter is keen to gain the input from farmers, researchers and technologists at REAP.


NatureMetrics winner of 2023 Tesco Agri T-Jam

This year’s Tesco Agri T-Jam pitch event was dominated by innovations which can contribute to Tesco’s aim of building more sustainable supply chains.

NatureMetrics won the 2023 Tesco Agri T-Jam Competition, securing fast-track introductions to the Tesco supplier network, a trial with one of the retailer’s supply chain partners and membership of Agri-TechE.

NatureMetrics won the competition for its innovative solution which measures biodiversity using eDNA analysis of soil, water, and insects. The innovation converts this complex data into simple metrics which can be viewed through its Nature Intelligence Platform, allowing users to comprehensively report on biodiversity improvement in their supply chain.

Companies from the Agri-TechE ecosystem that have previously featured in the T-Jam include:

Francisco Norris of Zelp at REAP 2019
Francisco Norris of Zelp at REAP 2019

The other 2023 Tesco Agri T-Jam finalists were:

Viridian (Angus Middleton) plans the sustainable use of land, using high-tech data modelling to calculate how landscapes are functioning, and then designing ways to manage the whole landscape system to solve local problems.

Flexifarm (from Diometer) (Kevin Gooding) is a cloud-based data integration SaaS platform for farms integrating with 3rd party hardware, software and data with advanced features and analytics. It aims to increase farm productivity, health and safety, and remote systems management.

Map of Ag (Joe Towers) created the “What If” Tool to optimise dairy farming operations and lower emissions by analysing factors like feed types and manure management. The tool offers farmers a customised analysis platform where they can use sliding scales to see their impact.

Bloomfield (Mark DeSantis) provides plant digitisation, providing automated, direct line-of-site pixel-level insection of harvests. Using imaging and AI, the technology allows growers to assess the health and performance of each and every plant, regardless of plant type, location or number.

Laguzze (Laurent Vigouelle) is a fertiliser made from seawater that provides more than 60 trace elements. The fertiliser acts as a natural repellent against all types of insects and pests and offers a significant reduction in fungal diseases.

Yard Stick PBC (Chris Tolles) measures soil carbon, making it possible to quantify carbon stocks on more land and allow more growers to increase their knowledge of their land. The technology is designed for field evaluation of soil carbon stocks and changes.

SMAPPLAB (Donat Posta) provides insect infestation monitoring and forecasting, using AI image recognition to provide actionable insights to growers. The platform offers a simple hectare-based subscription model to increase sustainability and profitability.

Protiomix Ltd (Stephan Jaffe) utilises waste streams generated by food and beverage sectors, converting this into an environmentally sustainable quality, carbon-negative feed and pet food production process.

Sunamp (Ana Amaral) offers a low-carbon solution that can reduce operational costs by running chillers during off-peak time to store energy to be used during peak time. This increases resilience for suppliers by not fully depending on the grid operation.


REAP 2023 logo

REAP Conference 2023:
Adaptation Through Innovation; Beyond the Comfort Zone

Wednesday 8th November, 9:30 am – 6:30 pm
Rowley Mile Conference Centre, Newmarket


Surviving and thriving under increasingly extreme and unpredictable challenges is the theme of the 2023 REAP conference. To build a productive, profitable and sustainable agri-food industry, we must move away from the comfort zone and become open to the new opportunities that exist when we ‘stretch’. Be a part of that future – bring yourself and your ideas to REAP.
reapconference.co.uk

reapconference.co.uk