Agricultural production is stalling and the current farming model may be unsustainable but there is potential to make a radical improvement. Agri-Tech East’s members have identified a number of levers where productivity, sustainability and profitability can be increased and presented this in a report “From Grass Roots to Blue Skies: a vision for agri-tech” at the House of Lords.
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, says: “Over the last 30 years technology has allowed us to do more with fewer people but there have been few incentives to increase output.
“Now there is a huge opportunity to look at production and land management from a different perspective and introduce new business models and technologies that will improve productivity in a sustainable way.
“We are concentrating on what works well, perhaps in other industry sectors or geographies, and seeing how it can be applied by some of the UK’s most skilled farmers.
“Good science is vital to understand the big questions. Innovation is needed to solve today’s challenges and this can come from unexpected places.”
The multi-disciplinary membership of Agri-Tech East has identified a number of levers where productivity, sustainability and profitability can be increased (see graphic below).
Agri-Tech East is a membership organisation that brings together farmers with scientists, technologists and investors to bring fresh thinking and new expertise to the challenges of production and land management.
Belinda continues: “We are concentrating on what works well, perhaps in other industry sectors or geographies, and seeing how it can be applied by some of the UK’s most skilled farmers.
“Our approach is to put the person with an intractable problem in contact with people that might have solutions. The key is to help all parties frame their challenges in a way that the others can appreciate.
“Farming is actually a complex business. By encouraging people with different perspectives to participate in workshops and networking events as a community we have been able to identify where innovation is needed.”
In just three years it has stimulated a number of initiatives that have enabled innovative producers to meet non-traditional players and collaborate in new ways.
The results have included projects such as:
- improved forecasting of demand for lettuces to reduce waste and release resources for alternative crops;
- development of a digital platform that makes data from multiple sources, including international markets, accessible to farmers;
- alternative methods for storing potatoes that overcome the withdrawal of current treatments.
This experience is captured in its new report: “From Grass Roots to Blue Skies: a vision for agri-tech” which also includes recommendations to support the agri-tech revolution.