Agri-Tech Week started at Rothamsted on Monday with an introduction to the new Agrimetrics Centre.
The centre is creating a portal to give access to relevant reference data-sets from across the food chain and it will develop tools to support improved data access and interpretation.
Five key themes were outlined:
- Real time risk management of pests and diseases
- Horizon scanning to support smart land use
- Support for ensuring product quality and food safety
- Development of sustainability metrics
- Complex spatial and temporal analysis, including large scale field phenotyping.
It currently has 200 companies involved and three projects underway that will be used as exemplars of how Agrimetrics can work with its partners and collaborators.
The focus of this event was on farmers and growers and Dr Robert Allen of Greenvale described how data can help to reveal where there is ‘loss of potential’. For example detailed records from one farm revealed that a young crop of potatoes had been ‘burnt’ at a crucial growth phase with fertiliser; this was found to be caused by a bent pipe on the distributor. It was easily corrected and the producer saved the £50k he was considering paying for replacement kit.
This view was expanded upon by a dairy farmer who described how he used year-on-year records to help make predictions, which included fitting the cows with accelerometers which could tell him accurately that a cow was going down with disease or coming into heat, allowing fast decision-making. In particular he found benchmarking within his dairy supply group hugely beneficial, but his great frustration was the lack of inter-operability between the various data collection and analysis systems he used on the farm.
A nutritionist who advises the pig industry explained the concept of the ‘full value pig’ and the enormous diversity within the industry. Price gained per pig can vary from £120 – £145 and small, incremental changes can help the producer come in nearer to the top. He demonstrated how effective use of data could reveal relationships, for example between an incident of tail biting and weight gain, allowing a producer to make improvements in welfare or feed that can translate into real differences in the bottom line.
There was a good discussion in the room about data ownership and benefits of sharing, and also how to integrate environmental and crop data with farm management packages – a debate that went on well into the evening.