What do you get if you mix a group of Norfolk Young Farmers with some PhD students researching plants (including diseases and insect pests), and a tour of the labs, glasshouses and potting sheds at one of the world’s leading plant research centres?
The answer is the first gathering of our Young Innovators’ Forum, delivered in partnership with the EDGE Apprenticeships Scheme and the John Innes Centre.
One of the core aims of Agri-Tech East is to help connect the innovation communities with the end users – the farmers, growers and processors in the agri-supply chain. Understanding each other’s needs, drivers and challenges is key to effective collaborations. So what better place to start than by bringing together early career farmers and scientists – those who will be both developing and using the new innovations of the agri-tech future?
Small groups of young scientists and farmers toured the John Innes Centre and talked about the research underway, and the challenges facing growers now and in the future. Highlights were the barley rust research (“Why are you working on old isolates of the disease – why not the new versions that are evolving in the field?”), how aphids transmit diseases between plants, how temperature can affect a plant’s ability to resist disease, and there was much discussion about the research into reducing pod shatter in oil seed rape.
A key message emerging from the evening was that the researchers wanted to know more about the practical elements of growing plants commercially, and the challenges farmers face. The young farmers were full of ideas of other places for the group to visit – including commercial tomato production and oil seed rape growing.
The idea of the Young Innovators’ Forum is to build cohorts of early stage career producers and innovators who feel comfortable in each other’s worlds. Last night was the first step on the journey of walking a mile in the other person’s shoes (or wellies). The next step will be to go to the field to see first-hand the wider context of fundamental research.
We’d like to roll out a Young Innovators’ Forum at different locations across the east of England in the future. If you are interested in becoming involved, please let us know – we’d love to hear from you.