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Agri-TechE mission to AGRITECHNICA

Agri-TechE Article

Continued mechanisation to farm at ever greater scales was the main take-home from AGRITECHNICA 2023 – the world’s leading trade fair for agricultural machinery. But innovation could certainly be seen in halls.

Becky says: “The impression I had is that the European agricultural machinery industry still thinks bigger is better. There were 18 innovation awards and it appeared that nearly every one of them went to a tractor, harvester or an attachment for a tractor!

“However, alongside the big kit were pockets of innovation – from automation through to advanced sensing and alternative chemistries. Our members sought out the thought-leaders, cutting edge technology, and sensed a shift towards more sustainable farming practices.

“Exhibitors at AGRITECHNICA face the same problems as innovators across all industries: giving the market what it knows and feels comfortable with, while adapting to wider global and environmental concerns. Addressing these wider issues brings opportunities for innovation, but selling them may require a little more persuasion…

Participants gave their thoughts in a short video:


Progress towards Net Zero

The conversation at the recent REAP conference was very much about reducing emissions on-farm, with a move away from diesel considered the fastest way to achieve this.

At AGRITECHNICA, there were a number of examples of electrification and alternative fuels, such as the MK-V from Monarch, which was being shown for the first time in Europe. This is the world’s first fully electric, driverless tractor, which claims to produce 54 metric tons less CO2e emissions than a diesel equivalent.

There was also the Helios from Fendt, which has a hydrogen fuel cell and 25kWh battery to power an electric motor.

“The general feeling was that a seismic move from diesel is still many years away, but very much needed, given the current technology is now over 100 years old.” Becky continues: “However, chatting with our members, we thought it unlikely that electric will have enough power for the huge (24-36m) attachments that we saw at the show, so a rethink is needed here.”

Is bigger better?

“We had a good cross-section of the Agri-TechE membership on the trip, which included farmers, agribusinesses, and early technology companies. The consensus was that our ecosystem is looking beyond ‘big’ to alternative models of cultivation for the future.

“The group reflected that farmers are looking for smaller, lighter machines that reduce compaction of the soil, and that robotics are potentially a great solution to this.

“We saw a few examples of robotics at the show, but with the exception of AgXeed, Naio Technologies and our friends AGROINTELLI, developers of ROBOTTI, many of these seemed to be prototypes rather than near market products.

Technologies of the future

Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE, gave a keynote address on the Expert Stage: Inhouse Farming. The ‘Inhouse Farming – Feed & Food Show’ is the DLG’s new platform for the agricultural and food systems of the future and its events ran in parallel to the main show. It offers technical information, perspectives, innovations and business – from feed to food – including topics such as vertical farming, high value crops, aquaponics, energy concepts and insects.

The Inhouse Farming platform shared strong synergies with topics familiar amongst Agri-TechE membership. Becky continued: “At the show, there were demonstrations of precision agriculture techniques like spot spraying – which is something that we have been discussing in the Agri-TechE network for a while – but it seemed to be considered an exciting hot topic, which suggests there is a good market opportunity here for many of our members.

“Managing data and interoperability are always topics of interest to the network, and I went to a talk by Microsoft and Bayer. It is very exciting to see key players like Microsoft working on active projects in this area, but it’s still quite fragmented – solid collaboration is needed to bring this into the commercial ‘norm’.

Exploring opportunities: Agri-TechE members unite

Travelling as an Agri-TechE group fostered a true sense of community, sparking genuine curiousity and a desire to learn from one another.

“It was great that the group got along famously – they didn’t stop talking! There was a real openness and everyone benefitted from sharing their different perspectives. There was much value for the group in meeting and visiting the show together and sharing tips on the best stands to visit and most exciting exhibitors to chat to.

“The show was huge so it was difficult to take it all in, but there was something for everyone, and some great connections were made.

“The takeaway was how much our group showcased the incredible diversity and industry-leading strength exhibited by the Agri-TechE ecosystem.

Partnering with DLG

Agri-TechE partnered with the DLG to offer the opportunity to members, which included bespoke networking, an invitation to the official opening and the chance to explore this prestigious event.

Greg Smith, DLG’s representative UK & Ireland, says: “We were delighted to welcome the Agri-TechE mission to AGRITECHNICA, representing key players in the UK’s vibrant agri-tech ecosystem.

“The connections they made and the opportunities they have had to immerse themselves in AGRITECHNICA will, we hope, help them develop their own businesses and operations. In addition, they have been able to experience at first hand how agrifoodtech is vital to global food production as we focus on growing more, from less. We look forward to growing the relationship with Agri-TechE in future years and through the DLG’s world-leading platforms, shows and events.”

Becky continues “We’re hugely grateful for being given this opportunity by the DLG, and for our network being recognised as leaders in the agri-tech field. Our group had real camaraderie and hopefully did what it was brought out to do – to lead the agri-tech charge opening conversations about automation, regenerative agriculture, and help steer conversations that open doors for innovative, less mainstream types of agri-machinery.

“We hope to attend again next year and are excited to see the increasing role that agri-tech can play amongst the old favourites.”

Will Dunn, Founder and CEO, Ag-drive

Will is a third-generation agricultural contractor, and he has developed Ag-drive, a cloud-based app for agricultural contractors and farmers. It is designed to help them manage the business, from job planning through to completion, with the ability to send invoices linked to accounts packages such as Quick Books, Sage and Xero. Ag-drive provides a truly paperless system, making every farm contracting business accountable and traceable. The system is also being used by businesses and contractors outside the agricultural sector.

Chris Eglington, Director, Crop Angel Ltd

Chris is a farmer who has adopted innovation on his farm. He established Crop Angel to support precision farming with drone technology.

Andrew Francis, COO & Co-founder, TEAM Ag (UK) Ltd.

Andrew held the position of Farms Director for a large Estate and Agri Business, prior to founding TEAM Ag. TEAM stands for ‘Transformational Estate and Agricultural Management’ and its ethos is to find ways to build long-term resilience in food production and environmental systems. Its clients include land managers, institutional investors and tech start-ups.

Eric Hewitson, Head of Communications, Wyld Networks

Wyld Networks is a Satellite IoT connectivity company with a deep knowledge of Low Power Wide Area Networks, especially using LoRaWAN technology. It specialises in sensor to satellite connectivity.

Richard Ling, Farm Manager, Rookery Farm Ltd

Richard is part of team transitioning Rookery Farm from a mixed family farm to a professional agribusiness, fit to adapt and thrive into the future. As a former AHDB Monitor farmer he values knowledge exchange and an opportunity to get out of his comfort zone wherever possible.

Jamie Lockhart, Managing Director, Frederick Hiam Ltd

Frederick Hiam is a diverse Farming and Fresh Produce Business, with farms in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. Its main site at Brandon Fields includes two vegetable packhouses and employs around 80 full-time employees alongside seasonal staff. The organisation is automating trimming vegetables in its packhouse and has invested in field robotics. It will be establishing circa 120 hectares of root vegetables in 2024 with autonomous vehicles.

Nial Mottram, Head of Industrial & Energy, Cambridge Consultants

Niall leads Cambridge Consultants’ activities in the Agri-Tech sector. He is particularly interested in the potential for technologies in adjacent sectors to make the leap into Agri-Tech.

Will Charlton, Director and Lead Consultant, Seeded Marketing Ltd

Will combines strategic marketing experience – working for large multinational businesses such as Bayer Crop Science and Limagrain – with detailed technical knowledge, and is also BASIS and FACTS qualified.

Florian Richter, Founder & CEO, Muddy Machines Ltd

Florian’s family farm is in Portugal and he grew up in an asparagus growing region of Germany. Muddy Machines is building field robots that offer automated asparagus harvesting. Battery-powered and light weight the robots also reduce soil compaction.

Zane van Romunde, Associate Director, eg technology

Zane is an experienced project leader with a background in delivering large, complex technology demonstration projects, including the world’s first containerised biomass pyrolysis system in Hamburg. He brings this expertise to eg technology, a specialist integrated product design, engineering and development consultancy that takes client products from concept through to market.

Maisie Wildgoose, Management Trainee, Ben Burgess Ltd

Maisie worked on the applications team at SOYL writing variable rate plans for phosphate and potassium, before moving onto a management trainee scheme at Ben Burgess, a leading agricultural machinery supplier.

Charlie Yorke, Farming Propositions Manager, NFU Mutual

Charlie was brought up on a small, mixed-system family farm and this has provided him with an intimate understanding of the agricultural sector’s pressing issues, challenges, and opportunities. This informs his role at NFU Mutual, a leading rural insurance provider supporting farming communities.

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