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ATW23: Extreme events driving innovation in agri-tech, REAP conference reveals

Agri-TechE Article
EcoNomad Solutions Ltd. EcoNomad Solutions Ltd.

“Extreme events over recent years have brought the recognition that if you want to stay in business, you need to be open to change. All the companies in this year’s REAP Start-Up Showcase were addressing a real-world problem that is becoming more urgent – but they are also viewing the challenge through a different lens, and this brings hope,” says Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE.

She comments that it was noticeable this year that farmers are working closely with innovators to co-develop farm-ready technologies: “The rising cost of labour and inputs based on fossil fuels are driving innovations that will reshape the sector.”

The Start-Up Showcase included innovations for: benchmarking progress towards sustainability metrics; improving soil health through real-time monitoring of soil nitrogen and biological activity; increasing the immune response of plants to pathogens; smart automation for asparagus farmers; support for precision livestock production; and a new high-value crop for vertical farms.

REAP Start-Up Showcase 2023
Nicole Sadd (Rothamsted Enterprises) (centre) with the presenters from the REAP 2023 Start-Up Showcase (l-r): Robyn Sands (Autopickr), Nima Eskandari (Agtelligence), Martin Stocks (HotHouse Therapeutics), Tony Miller (PlentySense), Matthew Dobbs (HerdVision) and Jim Bailey (PES Technology) (not pictured is Cian Duggan from Resurrect Bio, who appeared via video)

The REAP 2023 Start-up Showcase line-up featured:

Agtelligence to provide financial institutes with a ‘sustainability rating’ for arable land

Providing evidence of best environmental practice ‘when the computer decides’ is currently difficult to do for farmers. A new tool, ‘FarmScore’ from Agtelligence, aims to distil this complexity into a simple score that can be used by banks, financial institutes, and funding agencies to quickly benchmark progress against sustainability metrics.

Read more.

Agtelligence - REAP 2023 Start-Up feat

PlentySense offers real-time monitoring of soil nitrogen availability under growing crops

Around 50 percent of nitrogen (N) applied to crops is not taken up and can leach into the environment. Now sensors developed by PlentySense, a spinout from John Innes Centre, can measure the amount of nitrate taken up by the crop and the reserve available in the soil, thereby optimising fertiliser usage.

Read more.

PlentySense REAP 2023 Start-Up feat real-time monitoring of soil nitrogen

PES Technologies uses an electronic nose to measure biological soil health

An electronic nose to sniff out soil health that will deliver results to a farmer’s phone in five minutes is being developed by PES Technologies. The company is able to create an aroma fingerprint from gas released by microbes in the soil. These organisms are essential for breaking down organic matter and making nutrients available to plants, but current biological lab tests are expensive and take ten weeks to provide results.

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PES Technologies - REAP 2023 Start-Up feat

Resurrect Bio changes the code to unlock plant defences

Plants have a sophisticated immune system that has co-evolved as a defence against pathogens, but it may be lying inactive in many crop varieties. Now Resurrect Bio, a spin-out from The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in Norwich, has found a way to re-engineer the disease response mechanism in plants to restore resilience.

Read more.

Resurrect Bio - REAP 2023 Start-Up feat

Autopickr presents Gus, its adaptable asparagus harvester

“Shortage of labour is forcing smaller asparagus growers out of business, so they ask us three things: how much does our robot harvester cost, does it work and is it reliable?” explains Robyn Sands, Co-founder and CEO of Autopickr, the developer of Gus, an affordable, robust robot for field and undercover operations. Designed to solve a major challenge for the industry, it also offers potential to extend the harvesting season and shelf-life of this high-value crop.

Read more.

Autopickr - REAP 2023 Start-Up feat

HerdVision brings body condition scoring to DairyComp

HerdVision, a robust camera system for objective body condition and mobility scoring, will soon be integrated into the dairy management software system DairyComp, enabling real-time health updates each time a cow exits the parlour, and supporting precision livestock production.

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HerdVision - REAP 2023 Start-Up feat

HotHouse Therapeutics uses a plant factory to mass produce rare medicinal drugs

Some of the most potent drugs known to mankind are produced by plants, but issues such as accessing source material from rare plants and modifying the complex chemicals have meant they have been largely abandoned by the drug discovery industry. This challenge has been overcome by HotHouse Therapeutics’ technology, which enables any naturally occurring medicinal compound to be reproduced by a host plant, creating a high value crop for Controlled Environment Agriculture.

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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.