There will be a new feature at this year’s Royal Norfolk Show on the 1-2nd July with the launch of an “Innovation Zone’, which aims to encourage wider engagement and interest in the latest approaches to farming and food production.
The Innovation Zone is hosted by Agri-Tech East in partnership with the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) and NORMAC (The Norfolk Farm Machinery Club) and is focused on using advances in science, technology and engineering to turn challenges into business opportunities.
Dr Belinda Clarke, director of the cluster organisation, says: “We have focused on three areas of innovation – producing more food with less, creating more nutritious and tasty foods, and the opportunities for new types food. These are all areas where there is a clearly defined need and some novel solutions are emerging that have the potential to add value to current farming practice.”
The Royal Norfolk Show is the flagship of the RNAA which was formed in 1847 to “promote the improvement (in Norfolk agriculture) by the holding of shows” and “to promote the invention and improvement of agricultural implements.”
So the new Innovation Zone is a way to return to its roots, especially as NORMAC will be running two competitions, one for ‘New Ideas’ and the other for ‘Farm Machinery Innovations’, and these are to be judged by Farming Today’s Anna Hill.
Demonstrations in the Innovation Zone will include:
Getting more from less space
Aponic Aeroponics will be demonstrating how vertical soil-less growing towers can be used to easily create huge yields of herbs, salad crops, fruit, vegetables and fresh fish in a small area. It has versions suitable for both home and commercial use. Jason Hawkin-Row, founder of Aponic, says: “Water is a finite resource and we are often told that we do not have sufficient land to grow all the food we need.
“Growing plants in vertical tubes in nutrient rich water boosts yield and makes efficient use of water. You can easily produce a salad crop with 90% less water than conventional food production.”
Tasty peas and nutritious cereals
The John Innes Centre is encouraging everyone to think again about peas, beans and lentils which are nutritious and good for improving the fertility of the soil. Work at JIC is directed at making this crop more desirable to the farmers by improving yields, taste, performance and market value. The research institute has collected peas of all different varieties over many years and is using new knowledge about its pulse genetic resources to benefit traditional breeding.
Also on show is work with cereal crops on bio-fortification to increase the beneficial levels of iron and zinc.
Nutrient rich food supplements from algae
Algenuity has developed a compact biofermenter that can be used to grow algae – tiny microorganisms most closely related to plants – that are a rich source of EPA/DHA omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil.
This nutrient is associated with protection against a number of major diseases including coronary heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Algenuity’s system would allow the production of a vegan source of these valuable nutrients suitable for enriching other foods.
Giving seeds the best start
Germains provides seed technology designed to improve seed health and build resilience to adverse environments. Its range of specialist polymers encapsulate the seed to ensure seed treatments remain on the seed. Pelleting also creates a uniform shape and size for automated sowing.
Of particular interest is seed priming, which regulates germination by managing the temperature and seed moisture content. This can improve germination rates and trials have shown a 3% improvement in yield over previous generations of seed.
Richard Nicholls, European Commercial Manager at Germains, explains: “Our technology is directed at key areas: improving seed health by providing protection against disease; priming the seed to ensure consistent germination; pelleting to create a uniform shape and size for automated sowing; and the application of specialist crop protection materials.
“Germains has developed a range of specialist polymers which, when applied, encapsulate the seed eliminating dust, ensuring seed treatments remains on the seed. If you can provide the seed with the right environment this promotes vigour in the crop and reduces the need for other inputs in the field. Crop protection is applied within pellet in a controlled environment and so is safer to handle for the operator and reduces the need for spraying.
Superwheat resilient to changing conditions
Wheat breeding over the last three hundred years has focused on just a few varieties and this is restricting the capacity of the plant to adapt to changing environments. By recreating the original cross between an ancient wheat and wild grass species that happened in the Middle East 10,000 years ago, NIAB has developed a ‘superwheat’ that offers new sources of yield improvement, drought tolerance, disease resistance and input use efficiency for UK plant breeders and wheat growers.
Precision agriculture better for everyone
Farmers and environmentalists are keen to ensure that sprays are only used when they are needed. Improving prediction of disease and applying plant protection just to the crops that are at risk will reduce wastage of chemicals. This is known as precision farming and URSULA Agriculture will be showing how analysing data collected by UAVs (drones) flying over crops can enable better management and increase crop performance.
Digital field maps showing things like weed stress, disease pressures and variation in vigour are providing real value in crop management.
NEW IDEAS IN MACHINERY
The Norfolk Farm Machinery Club (NORMAC) will be organising two competitions aimed at looking at the latest thinking and innovations in farm machinery. Entries for the ‘New Ideas’ include: a precision seeder combination system for drilling oil seed rape; a firewood processor; a self loading timber trailer; a sheep-net winder and a concrete crusher.
The “Farm Machinery Innovations” competition has attracted: a soil erosion management tool, a control system for nemacide applicators, one-pass cultivation tools and a Wireless Data Transfer System, among others.
Competition entries will be available for inspection.
The Innovation Zone, in association with Larking Gowen, is a new development by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association to support the effective transfer of scientific developments from the lab to the field.