Virtual models of the real world are helping farmers, growers and breeders to understand the complex interconnections between crop, environment and markets.
Speakers from fruit farm Bardsley England and Earlham Institute will join those from technology companies Consus Fresh Solutions, LiveTrace and Hummingbird Technologies to discuss recent advances and how they are being used on the farm at the Agri-TechE event “Data Management – More Than A Numbers Game” on 13th April 2021.
Half the farming team will be employed in IT
Antony Yousefian, Agri-Tech Director at Bardsley England, sees a major opportunity for the improved use of data in agriculture. He says: “If you are designing a new smartphone, all the parameters are known, the inputs and desired outputs are clear, and few products will be out of specification. But in agriculture, most of the inputs aren’t measured, much less controlled. There are so many variables in farming – I find it baffling that agriculture isn’t already digital given how complicated it is.”
The farm is a major producer of top fruit – apples, pears, cherries and plums – and is using data collected on the farm to generate a computer model called a ‘digital twin’.
Antony continues: “The next stage of the agri-tech journey is to see farmers turning from having no IT team, to having half the business employed in IT.”
Sharing knowledge enabled potato industry to respond to change
LiveTrace has developed a Grower Management System for potato suppliers. It brings together data from a variety of sources on to one platform and offers bespoke apps to help manage variety trials and storage.
Co-founder Phillip Kemp firmly believes knowledge-sharing is the future. “Sharing data reduces administration and improves traceability, for example we are working with a haulage firm to allow paperless passports, load ticket weight and GPS tracking. Everything is in one place.”
He explains that the company developed an app to help managers use ‘hot fog’ a new technique for potato storage, after the sprout suppressant CIPC was suddenly withdrawn last year, saying: “We made the decision to share our new Fogging app with companies in the processing supply, so all the major players have access to the database. Each fogging application is recorded using the app, this creates an invoice for the grower alongside sprout suppressant quantity, crop condition, date, fan speeds and, as always, a photograph. Live reporting on the dashboard is graphed by variety which is very useful to gain confidence to change the fogging process to make improvements to the application techniques.”
Sharing information gained from bigger datasets can also accelerate plant breeding
Professor Neil Hall, Director of the Earlham Institute, explains that the overarching aim for his institute is to take complex data and deliver something that is directly useful to breeders. He says: “Understanding population genetics of pathogens is very important as it helps us to predict outbreaks and also to monitor the spread and emergence of important traits such as drug resistance, pesticide resistance and virulence.”
Knowledge emerging from the Earlham Institute will give breeders tools to improve disease management, he explains: “If we were able to sequence all of the fungal effector genes in a population and see how they interact with resistance genes, in the future we could perhaps make predictions about what strains would dominate in future seasons.
“This would provide indications of how they are distributed and therefore where to focus crop protection interventions and what crops to breed for future seasons based on the dynamics of pathogens in the wild.”
Professor Neil Hall will join Antony Yousefian, Agri-Tech Director at Bardsley England, Matthew Guinness, Head of Sustainability at Hummingbird Technologies, Jon Kemp, CEO of Livetrace, and Derek Thompson, CEO of Consus Fresh, at the Agri-TechE event: ‘Data Management – More Than A Numbers Game’ on Tuesday 13th April at 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm