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At the Innovation Hub – tech for soil health, automation, IPM and smart water management

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

It was great to be back in person for Royal Norfolk Show Innovation Hub 2022, with a diverse range of stands featuring technologies aimed at input management, soils improvement, automation, and on-farm safety solutions.

The Innovation Hub provides a place for technologists, businesses and policy-makers to come together to network and be inspired by the latest new developments.

The President of the 2022 Show, Lord Cholmondley, lent his name to our “Time for Tech” which was a focal point for a number of VIP visits to the Hub, including a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, an Ambassadorial delegation from the Netherlands, University Vice Chancellors, and past, present and future Show Presidents.

The Presidents’ Time for Tech provided an opportunity to welcome visitors from the Netherlands and Jo Churchill MP to the Innovation Hub. In the photograph from left to right: Karel van Oosterom (Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Dr Belinda Clarke (Director of Agri-TechE), Philip de Jong (Agricultural Counsellor for the UK and Ireland), Jo Churchill MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Defra) and Andrew Wood (Honorary Dutch Consul for the East of England)
The Presidents’ Time for Tech provided an opportunity to welcome visitors from the Netherlands and Jo Churchill MP to the Innovation Hub. In the photograph from left to right: Karel van Oosterom (Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Dr Belinda Clarke (Director of Agri-TechE), Philip de Jong (Agricultural Counsellor for the UK and Ireland), Jo Churchill MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Defra) and Andrew Wood (Honorary Dutch Consul for the East of England)

Technology to improve agricultural productivity while promoting healthy ecosystems

Soil nutrient management – NIAB

Soil nutrient management is an approach that aims to more closely match nutrient inputs, such as fertilisers and organic manures, to crop demand at different stages of its lifecycle. Applying excessive nutrients, or those that are not ‘bio-available’, are a wasted resource. NIAB discussed technology to support soil nutrient management.

Long-term trials by NIAB show that soil health can be improved by closely matching crop demand to nutrient inputs.

Boosting plant performance and controlling disease – PfBio

PfBio is using naturally occurring and beneficial soil bacteria to suppress plant diseases. This type of ‘biocontrol’ is achieved by identifying varieties of the bacteria Pseudomonas that associates with a particular crop and boosting its presence, so it outcompetes the pathogen. Pseudomonas can also have other benefits, it stimulate the plant immune system as well as promoting plant growth, which increases both health and yield.

Lord Cholmondeley, President of the Norfolk Show, discusses biocontrol with PFBio

Cereal camo-cropping for sugar beet – BBRO

BBRO are discussing some alternative approaches to pest management.

The first is cereal camo-cropping; the theory is that growing a cereal crop in with the sugar beet helps to obscure it by reducing the soil-plant contrast which aphids use to locate sugar beet.

The other approach is to use food dyes to change the ground colour and hide the emerging beet.

Innovation Hub 2022 BBRO
Natural predators and camouflage to reduce use of pesticides on BBRO stand

Smart energy management and automation – Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric provides smart energy management and automation systems across a range of industries including agri-food. Louise Liddiard, the Segment Marketing Manager at Schneider Electric, explains that the company aims to make it easier for vertical farmers to adopt smarter machines and to become better connected, more flexible, more efficient and more sustainable.

The team at Schneider Electric introduce Jo Churchill to their energy saving tech

Reducing inputs with herbal leys – Barenbrug

Yvonne Hargreaves, Brand Marketing Manager at Barenbrug, comments: “At Barenbrug, we’ve one simple goal: to help all farmers make the most of grass, forage and herbal leys – and that applies across the board, whether you’re producing milk, raising livestock or growing essential crops.

“Our innovative grass and forage genetics help generate practical agronomic and environmental gains across UK farming systems for increased productivity and sustainability.”

Barenbrug discuss grass breeding and benefits of herbs

Embedding on-farm safety into the culture – Safe Ag Systems

Safe Ag Systems supports farmers in improving safety and compliance by embedding it into the culture. Safe Ag Systems’ software is an operational on-farm tool that can be used by everyone, making it easy to record checks, report safety issues and gain access to relevant information at the point of need.

“The online tool guides you through the risk assessment process with a set of questions, which enables you to determine the inherent risks and provides practical advice on how to control them as specified in ISO31000,” Hannah Clarke, UK Implementation Specialist at Safe Ag Systems explains.

“If safety is tied into an operational tool on-farm – utilised by everyone – it can then provide evidence of behavioural change and also of good practice toward food safety, fair employment and sustainability. Our product is now helping thousands of businesses gain certifications easily.”

SafeAg describe the benefit of using a QR code on machinery to link to info when needed.

‘Irrigation as a service’ reduces water and waste – DripUK / Howseman Agriculture

A recyclable drip tape system that reduces water, energy and labour while ensuring soil moisture levels at a critical time has been trialled by Norfolk farmers. Howseman Agriculture, with its sister company DripUK, is the first in the UK to offer Streamline X Re-Gen, a drip tape that can be recycled at the end of the season.

Andrew Howseman, Managing Director of Howseman Agriculture, explains that the company is offering ‘irrigation as a service’ and has developed a circular system that reduces the cost of irrigation for farmers.

Andrew Howseman (right) explains the benefits of his smart irrigation technology to the Dutch guests

BBC Look East and Anna Hill from Farming Today visited the Innovation Hub to talk to the exhibitors and see the demonstrations.

BBC Look East’s Alex Dunlop talks to Andrew Howseman
BBC Farming Today’s Anna Hill talks to Alistair Wright, BBRO

Some images from the Innovation Hub 2022 (click to enlarge):