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The REAP 2022 Bursary recipients

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

There was a good response to the REAP 2022 bursary (sponsored by RNAA) which was available to farmers, and also to students in full time education in agriculture or a related science.

The recipients of the 2022 bursary were:

REAP 2022 Bursary recipients

Sam Keenor, UEA

Main photo, above: Back: Richard Ling (Rookery Farm), Scott Pike (D.R. Metson and Partners), Chris Eglington (S.S. Eglington & Son and Crop Angel), Mark Nicholas MBE (RNAA), Gruffyd Evans (RTKFnet), Darius Zarrabian (University of Cambridge), William Clayton (EW Pepper [Bury Lane Farm]), Sam Sykes (AL Sykes Farm). Front: Patrick Allpress (Allpress Farms), Penelope Bossom (Overbury Enterprises), Tom Allen-Stevens (Wicklesham Estates)

Right: Sam Keenor (University of East Anglia)

The bursary for REAP 2022 was kindly sponsored by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA).

The RNAA is a leading organisation in Norfolk for the promotion of and support to food production, farming and the countryside. Over 175 years it has supported the farming community and provided a connection with consumers through events such as the Royal Norfolk Show, the UK’s largest two-day agricultural Show, and the Norfolk Farming Conference. As a membership organisation its facilitates a community of growers, farmers, landowners and industry professionals and provides a showcase for the Agri-food sector.

Mark Nicholas MBE, Managing Director of the RNAA, says: “We see knowledge exchange as a vital means to inform practitioners within the industry and to inspire new entrants. As a sponsor we are particularly keen to ensure that the conference is as accessible as possible to UK growers, farmers and those in full-time education in agriculture. So, the RNAA is delighted to support the REAP Conference 2022 with its deep dive into the next phase of on-farm digital technology.”


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022 

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

 

Making Sense of Agriculture – REAP 2022 report launched

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

REAP report 2022 coverThis year’s REAP Conference explored how the meeting of real and virtual worlds is creating a new generation of technologies that are ‘making sense of agriculture’ and can provide the intelligence needed to take the best action on-farm. In the conference report we aim to capture some of the discussion from this vibrant event.

There are so many variables in agriculture, with profitability impacted by everything from the nutrients in the soil through to extreme weather events. Some factors are controllable, many are not, but informed decisions can mitigate risk – and the digital world is facilitating this.

The role of advanced sensors and tools for modelling, forecasting and scenario planning – including digital twins – were all discussed by farmers, technologists, researchers and others with a passion for turning challenges into opportunities for the agri-food industry.

This report aims to capture some of the highlights.

Read and download the report now!

 

 

REAP Start-up Showcase 2022

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Smart solutions to universal challenges were presented in the REAP Start-up Showcase 2022.

Zac Gazit, ALVÁTECH, in the REAP 2022 Start-Up Showcase
Zac Gazit

Solar-powered ActiveWater tech reduces salinity of water for agriculture

As further droughts are predicted worldwide there will be increasing demand for crop irrigation, but a lack of fresh water is causing extensive soil degradation. To overcome this issue, ALVÁTECH has developed ActiveWater, a sustainable and affordable solar-powered treatment for water that reduces its salinity by up to 50% and improves soil health, enabling poorer quality water to be used without harm to the crop or the environment.

Read more >>

 

Ed Fuchs of FLOURISH, speaking at REAP 2022
Ed Fuchs

FLOURISH makes ‘bad’ bacteria self-destruct to create a healthy microbiome

Bacterial crop diseases cause devastating losses. Some are controlled by antibiotics, which results in damage to beneficial organisms in the microbiome and the risk of resistance. FLOURISH offers an alternative plant protection strategy. By disrupting the metabolism of the pathogen, it enables natural competition to create a healthy growing environment, which boosts yield.

Read more >>

 

Xiaobin Zhao, WASWARE, speaking at REAP 2022 (2)
Xiaobin Zhao

WASWARE announces world’s first organic bioresin seed coating at REAP

Frasscoat uses a bioresin impregnated with a biopesticide created from insect frass to provide powerful, biodegradable seed protection. It has been developed by WASWARE to create a seed treatment that increases seed sprouting and seedling survival, enhances growth and repels pests, whilst leaving no chemical residues.

Read more >>

 

Cara Griffiths, SugaROx, speaking at REAP 2022 (feat)
Cara Griffiths

SugaROx’s new biostimulant protects wheat yields by up to 40% after drought

As erratic weather events are becoming more common, and have a detrimental effect on crop yields, a biostimulant being developed by agri-tech start-up SugaROx is attracting significant interest. It has been found to prevent yield-loss in wheat by up to 40% when applied after a drought event and can boost yields by up to 18% under typical growing conditions. The product slots seamlessly into existing agricultural practices, offering ease-of-use for farmers.

Read more >>

 

Jonathon Jones OBE, Tremap, speaking at REAP 2022 feat
Jonathon Jones OBE

Tremap gives citizen scientists access to first global platform for tree recording

As international governments propose ambitious tree planting programmes to reverse habitat degradation, one key challenge is being overlooked: “we don’t have a reliable way of knowing what trees we have,” said Jonathon Jones, Founder and CEO of Tremap. The Cornwall-based agri-tech start-up has created the world’s first global tree platform for recording and locating trees. The app is already in use by a number of botanic gardens to replace manual methods of tree surveying.

Read more >>

 

Maria Jensen, Antler Bio
Maria Jensen

Same parents, different outcomes – Antler Bio finds out why

“I have two racehorses with the same parents, but one has won €5M, the other €5K; why?” This was the question that fuelled the curiosity of Maria Jensen, founder and CEO of Antler Bio, to look at the impact of nurture on gene expression. The company is now focussed on dairy herds and the result is the EPIHERD Platform, a technology that bridges the massive data gap between an animal’s potential and its performance.

Read more >>

 

Sushma Shankar, Deep Planet, in the REAP 2022 Start-Up Showcase feat
Sushma Shankar

Using AI to help decision-making on vineyards

Deep Planet uses AI to help vineyard growers make the best decisions and manage yield, maturity and irrigation. The technology helps predict grape maturity and optimal harvesting dates, forecast yields for picking and vintage planning, optimising irrigation scheduling, and reducing variability across the vineyard, helping to identify problem areas.

Read more >>

 

REAP Start-up Showcase Hall of Fame

Over the years over 50 early-stage ventures have participated in REAP Start-Up Showcases. Check out the progress of some of the ‘alumni’ of previous conferences here.

 


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022 

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

Making Sense of Agriculture with Elizabeth Fastiggi REAP 2022

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE
Elizabeth Fastiggi AWS
Elizabeth Fastiggi, Head of Worldwide Business Development for Agriculture at AWS

At this year’s REAP conference we will exploring the interface between the real and the virtual worlds, and how emerging technologies will enable improve decision making against a background of turbulence in the natural and economic environment.

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, we will be asking specialists to explore the technology and inviting progressive farmers and producers to discuss the applications for agriculture. 

REAP keynote speaker Elizabeth Fastiggi of Amazon Web Services

To provide the big picture we are delighted to have Elizabeth Fastiggi, Head of Worldwide Business Development for Agriculture at Amazon Web Services (AWS), as the keynote speaker at REAP 2022.

By providing an infrastructure for cloud computing AWS is supporting the creation of a more sustainable and resilient food system.

Elizabeth says: “Our objective is to enable the entire industry to use data to deliver insights and improve outcomes.”

AWS’ customers large and small can use its tool kits to harness data to support better farming solutions, develop more efficient machinery and use machine learning and AI for improved decision support.

Elizabeth is one of a panel of experts who will be discussing how the virtual world is driving change in the real world, facilitated and grounded by Anna Hill, best known for her role as a presenter on BBC Farming Today

Leveraging the power of the cloud

Recent years have seen the development of an ‘Internet of Agri-Things’ – smart sensors and monitors that are connected to the internet and provide real-time information to farmers and producers.

Cloud computing is facilitating this by reducing the processing load for the sensors, and therefore the energy required. The role of the sensor is simply to collate data and transmit when connectivity is available and the processing is done on a remote processor ‘in the cloud’.

The development of cloud computing has opened the door for new types of agri-tech services. Early-stage companies can develop their products and services rapidly using toolkits, and farmers will be able to use ‘plug and play’ applications that don’t need lots of setting up or powerful computers for them to work.

One example is the smart collars being developed by herd management tool developer Halter. Its devices aim to improve the work/life balance for dairy farmers by enabling remote management and monitoring of the herd, even creating virtual fencing to improve the efficiency of grazing.

However, to be feasible, the device needs to be low-cost, lightweight and solar powered, and the company also wanted to be able to update its functionality remotely. This is where Amazon Web Services (AWS) comes into the picture.

Smart collars create virtual fencing Halter
Smart collars create virtual fencing Halter

Instead of trying to analyse the data in the field, the smart collar now sends information to the ‘cloud’.

Machine learning is then used to understand the implications of the data – the animal is lame; the calf has become lost – and to use this to create an instruction for smart equipment or to provide the farmer with an alert or decision support.

As a result of leveraging the cloud, the wearable device requires less computing power, can be charged by sunlight, and reprogrammed remotely.

Of course, you do still need a connection to the internet – but with the new network of communication satellites this too is improving.

AWS helping agribusiness harness data

Project Carbonview will enable farmers to report, analyse and better assess their end-to-end supply chain carbon footprint. Credit: Bayer

Elizabeth explains that AWS customers are not individual farmers, but the enterprise and start-up companies that work with these farmers:

“We work with customers across the agricultural landscape, including major equipment manufacturers and corporations, as well as start-ups.”

Customers include CropX, which is developing a system to detect crop stress by integrating soil data with numerous above-ground data layers such as satellite imagery and weather data, and Bushel, which is part of a collaboration developing Project Carbonview, a system that aims to track carbon emissions through the value chain from the farmer to the end purchaser of agricultural goods (categorized as Scope 3 emissions by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol).

Enabling automation, robotics and machine vision 

There is a myriad of ways where modelling of the real world can improve productivity in agri-food systems, but for Elizabeth Fastiggi the long-term viability of the food system is the biggest challenge.

“Several of our solutions – and those of our partners and customers – are focused on addressing sustainability in farming,” she explains.

“There is a collective recognition that no one organization can ‘go it alone’ and we must collaborate because of how complex and interdependent the agri-food system is.

“This makes me incredibly hopeful because I know we will get to much better outcomes – for people and the planet – through cooperation, and AWS is uniquely positioned to foster these cross-industry collaborations and help our customers work together to build a more sustainable and resilient food system.”


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022 

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

Nurturing, supporting, scaling – the UK start-up landscape

Agri-TechE Blog
Agri-TechE

At REAP 2022 we will be unveiling the line-up of our much-anticipated Start-Up Showcase – seven exciting young companies succeed the 51 who have featured in the last eight REAPs. Showcase alumni include Breedr, Yagro, Small Robot Company, PBD Biotech, AgriSound and many more … click here to see ‘What Happened Next’.

REAP Start-Up Showcase attracts investment

Over the last three years, 14 of the start-ups appearing in previous REAP Showcases have collectively raised over £92M. But where is this money coming from and how does the UK compare to Europe when it comes to raising finance for growing agri-tech?

Early-stage ventures provide a vital engine of growth and innovation and early association with those ‘Who Could Make It Big’ is always a bonus. There are many that are keen to meet, help and support start-ups – from investors to potential partners and acquirers.

Some of these ventures will succeed, and many will fail, but their journeys provide crucial insights into the likely innovations on farms in the future.

A recent report by Forward Fooding reveals that 2020 saw the creation of a massive 709 start-ups, (second only behind the US with 1,924). Vertical farming companies and those from the plant-based meat sector top the charts as compared with Europe, but farm management and precision farming companies also featured strongly.

The amount of money flowing into these businesses is significant and they are good at raising money – in the last decade an impressive €5.1 bn has been raised by agri-food start-ups.

But here is the thing…

start-upsOf the investment into the sector in 2020, 63% came from overseas investors. And there is more overseas money to come…

Recently, Agri-TechE has been working with the Department for International Trade Venture Capital Unit to help identify UK agri-tech companies ready for more significant investments – in the range of £5M to £100M. This finance is being sourced from international investors keen to invest in one of the most innovative and vibrant global agri-tech ecosystems.

The goal of this inward investment is to ensure that the value creation resulting from the R&D and company formation leads to real value capture and that companies are supported to scale-up and thrive where they were founded.

start-up showcase

All great news…

The Forward Fooding report highlights the numerous UK-based accelerators. The Agri-TechE network has no shortage of supportive and nurturing incubators, together with increasingly wise CEOs who have successfully exited their business and are ready to invest and support again.

An enabling, and world-leading environment for start-ups to thrive.

The rest of the world is looking – and investing – with great interest into UK-grown companies. We need to make sure that continues and that start-ups are supported to look global from the outset for their fund-raising.

Click here to be among the first meet the REAP 2022 Start-Up Showcase companies.

Frederick Hiam uses ROBOTTI to provide automated weeding of parsnips

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

Automation of farming operations offers promise but integrating robotics on-farm when there has already been a significant investment in equipment creates many challenges. ROBOTTI, a type of autonomous tractor is designed to work with conventional approaches and machinery. It is appearing at REAP on 8th November 2022.

Mechanised weeding

Jamie Lockhart
Jamie Lockhart

Jamie Lockhart is Managing Director of Frederick Hiam Limited, a diverse farming and fresh produce business with farms in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire growing a wide range of root vegetables, including parsnips, potatoes and onions, on light sandy and rich fen soils.

Jamie explains: “We are looking to increase the accuracy of our mechanised weeding to reduce the use of herbicides and move to a more preventative approach to weed control.”

Farm-centric automation with ROBOTTI

Jamie met Tom Beach through his father at Mudwalls Farm in Warwickshire; Tom had recently co-founded Autonomous Agri Solutions to bring a farm-centric approach to automation.

“I was impressed by Tom’s enthusiasm for all things autonomous and how we could use them in a practical and immediate way. It was at this first meeting that a trial with a ROBOTTI was suggested.”

ROBOTTI (credit AgroIntelli)
ROBOTTI (credit: AgroIntelli)

The ROBOTTI is like an autonomous tractor – it can navigate the field fitted with attachments for various operations, such as seeding, weeding, spraying etc. Autonomous Agri Solutions is using an N-Trip RTK system for navigation that offers sub-2cm accuracy. Sowing the crop with this level of precision allows a sequence of automated operations to be conducted with confidence.

Jamie continues: “We offered a 40-ha block as part of the trial. We were keen to learn the true costs of operation and how they compared with our existing conventional system.

“The ROBOTTI has drilled the parsnips on this block and weeded them on several passes. Initially it was about getting confidence in the accuracy and reliability of a fully autonomous system. In this regard the machine hasn’t put a foot wrong and, on several occasions, we left the machine running all night whilst weeding and the accuracy was perfect.

“We don’t see the ROBOTTI as a direct replacement for our manned equipment. Our biggest asset remains our highly skilled team, who are essential to ensure consistent results with these high input crops, but we absolutely see opportunities for the ROBOTTI to work alongside these teams going forward.”

Complementing conventional approaches

Tom Beach agrees; he sees automation as a complement to farm operations: “It’s about the systems integration. Our first customer in the UK, Home Farm Acton, based in Suffolk, wanted to use ROBOTTI from day one for weeding in potato ridges. Unfortunately, with the inaccuracy of their planting system and the way the beds were created, this was not possible. But this was something we could rectify and improve.

“We made sure that the level of guidance being used on the conventional agricultural equipment, the tractor, was of a high enough level of accuracy and precision. The management systems were in place to support that all the way through; the same guidance lines were used, making sure it all matched up and flowed together.

“This year they’ve had absolutely no issues weeding their organic potatoes with ROBOTTI – it’s gone perfectly, because we were able to support them in putting this in place, and they are now able to introduce other forms of automation.

ROBOTTI in action - mowing (credit AgroIntelli)
ROBOTTI in action – mowing (credit: AgroIntelli)

“It’s all about understanding the needs of the farmers and the reasons for doing things. Next year we are planning to weed a greater area of crop than we’ve actually seeded; that is, to weed a crop that’s been planted using a conventional tractor.

“As we can’t guarantee the level of accuracy that the tractor’s been able to achieve, we will be using a vision system to add a side-shift element to move the implement left and right within the constraints of the ROBOTTI, to adjust for that inaccuracy.

“We have a variety of technology that can work on-farm and this type of hybrid solution means that farmers can use their legacy equipment where most effective and we can help automate the elements that will be most beneficial.

Need for actionable insights

“The volumes of data available in farming is enormous. What I’m interested in and what I’m looking for is actionable data – ‘what data will make a difference to a real decision we’re making on-farm?’ If we have appropriate information, then we can really make changes in our farming practices.”

Jamie shares Tom’s sentiments: “One of the main uses we see going forward for the ROBOTTI is for crop monitoring throughout the growing season.

“The company is a developing a ‘crop eye’ system that will monitor crops and, through a series of algorithms, will decide on precision applications and actions. This will have a big impact on reduction of inputs and creating a more focussed management plan.”

Jamie Lockhart and Tom Beach will be at the REAP conference on 8th November 2022 to continue the discussion with other farmers. Autonomous Agri Solutions will be demonstrating ROBOTTI and showcasing videos of the robot in use on-farm.


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

Prescription field maps direct strategic plant protection

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

Luke Pollard xarvio

Apply crop inputs only where they are needed; this is the aim of xarvio Digital Farming Solutions, the digital arm of BASF. It has developed tools like FIELD MANAGER to create targeted prescription maps, which enable strategic application of plant protection products to ensure better crop uniformity and yield.

Luke Pollard, xarvio Implementation Lead at BASF, says that data driven crop modelling and detailed environmental data can assist decision making on-farm, and these digital technologies are a key enabler to achieve a more sustainable agriculture. He will be talking about precision application in the Technology Exhibition at REAP 2022.

xarvio FIELD MANAGER is a leading platform for the digital optimization of crop production. It is trusted by more than 98,000 farmers around the world, supporting more than 14 million hectares.

Digital decision-making tool delivers on-farm efficiency

xarvio
Pat Thornton has been trialing xarvio’s FIELD MANAGER

xarvio FIELD MANAGER was launched in 2020 as a handy tool for growers and agronomists to improve collection and utilisation of data through satellite imagery and a number of farmers, like cereal grower Pat Thornton have been involved in trials.

Pat runs Low Melwood Farm, near Doncaster, in partnership with his father. The 150ha operation grows Oilseed Rape, Winter Wheat, Spring Barley and Spring Beans.

Over the past season, he has been using  xarvio FIELD MANAGER, as part of a whole field scale trial with BASF. Growers can use the tool to access historical biomass maps, called PowerZone maps, which identify high and low performing field-zones, based on satellite data.

Pat has identified historical productivity trends for the last 15 years and in-season field variation on his farm, this has allowed him to alter and target his inputs more precisely.

Using the PowerZone maps, Pat found that there was a fair amount of variation between his crops and was able to manipulate his seeding rates to improve uniformity in the field.

“It is not low-hanging fruit for a farm of our size to embrace this technology, it does come at a price, but I was really surprised how much data was on there,” he said.

“We have also been able to use the latest in-season satellite images to target Nitrogen rates to even out fields in the early spring. We were able to create application maps for our spreader, so thinner areas received a higher rate of 60kg per hectare of Nitrogen and thicker areas were reduced to 40kg per hectare.”

Amazone precision equipment loaded with prescription map

Amazone precision machinery

He explained that he sees the technology as making the best use of what they have. He has been using the Amazone range of seeding, spreading and spraying equipment, which can be loaded with a prescription map to carry out a designated task, using information from the xarvio app.

For this project, the Cayena tine seeder and Cirrus cultivator drill were used for crop establishment and then crop care was carried out using a ZA-TS 3200 Profis Tronic spreader and Pantera 4504 self-propelled sprayer.

By altering seeding rates in August 2021, Pat was able to see improved biomass consistency across his field by May the following year.

Targeted fungicide programme

Xarvio digital field prescription field maps
xarvio digital field enables a prescription field map for directing inputs

He was then also able to apply this targeted input approach for application of Revystar® XE, a systemic fungicide with protectant and curative properties for disease control.

Luke Pollard explains: “We discussed how to target Revystar XE for Pat’s T2 application, using the latest satellite images, to produce an application map for the sprayer. We maintained the average use at 1.25 litres per hectare, but we varied from 1.0 litre in the thinner areas up to 1.5 litres per hectare where there was more biomass and more green leaf area”

Luke adds that by using a new piece of hardware called xarvio CONNECT – which physically connects to the terminal within the machinery – growers can wirelessly ping data backwards and forwards from the FIELD MANAGER system to the terminal.

“This allows a grower to, for example, send an application map for liquid fertiliser or crop protection to the sprayer terminal wirelessly,” he said.

Another recent feature is the ability to add field notes. This allows growers to use GPS location on their phone to pin the location of a particular part of their farm and log any information or photos to monitor how fields are progressing. Pat explained how he used this to help map black-grass, which allowed him to go back to the precise location to treat it.

“It is a useful tool to have in your pocket when out walking the fields. I make notes, monitor disease risk and growth stage,” Pat continues. “It has brought an additional level of information and insight to help me make decisions on-farm.”

Biodiversity planner 

By using a biodiversity planner, growers can pinpoint less productive areas and assess their suitability for a range of environmental management options.

Growers can create management zones for biodiversity measures, targeting low performing field zones and integrate those insights with seeding, nutrition, and crop protection maps.

Luke continues: “We have been working alongside The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to look at how we can incorporate biodiversity maps in our app, to assess the most suitable zones for introducing biodiversity measures. They have done lots of research in terms of understanding which different factors on the field such as altitude, latitude, location of water sources, hedgerows, trees, etc and how all these have an impact on where is the most suitable area for example, for a pollinator habitat, or to drill some nectar mix or wildflowers.”

Growers can automatically exclude zones from their maps for example for drilling, where they are about to plant nectar mixes.

“We can all walk and look at our farms and assess them to an extent, but having a tool like this gives you the ability to back up your decision-making process,” Pat concluded.


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

Making sense of carbon sequestration – Cambridge Consultants at REAP 2022

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE
Niall Mottram
Niall Mottram, Cambridge Consultants

Carbon sequestration – where carbon dioxide is taken out of the air and stored – could potentially be a new source of revenue for landowners if there are reliable ways of measuring carbon uptake.

Cambridge Consultants will be talking about this issue in the Technology Exhibition at REAP 2022. They recently produced the report ‘Driving Net Zero – is agri-tech ready to capture carbon’ , by Niall Mottram and Simon Jordan, which investigates the technologies available and explores the concept of a digital twin for farmland.

Measuring carbon sequestration in an economically viable way

Simon comments: “As many know, agriculture is the only industry in the world with the potential to be carbon negative and offers a tantalising possibility of new revenue for farmers. But to realise the full potential, we need traceability regarding regenerative agriculture practices, as well as combining modern techniques (for carbon measurement) and data science in an economically viable way.”

Plants sequester carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, converting it into carbohydrates in roots, stems, leaves and fruit. If the crop is perennial, such as grassland or fruit trees, then carbon is locked in for a period of time, but for annual crops the storage is transitionary. Another way of locking up carbon for longer periods is by adding products like biochar or basalt to the soil.

Proving that the carbon is stored for a given period of time and that the amount sequestered is more than would occur anyway requires accurate sensors and an audit trail. The report discusses the design for these elements. Automating the measurement of carbon uptake in an economically viable way would enable the development of new services.

The report is available from Cambridge Consultants’ website here.

Improving development of autonomous vehicles 

Another challenge for the agri-food industry is increasing autonomy in unstructured environments just as fields.

A major limiting factor when developing autonomous robots is the volume of training data required. Cambridge Consultants has developed an algorithm that overcomes this problem by offering a highly equivalent simulation – a three dimensional environment that is incredibly life-like.

In this video, Consultant Niall Mottram, Head of Industrial and Energy, explains how the advanced simulation has the potential to accelerate development of  autonomous systems.

Find out more at REAP 2022.

 


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

Farmer Insights Panel at REAP 2022

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Andrew Peal has recently taken on the role of Farm and Estate Manager at Salle Farms in Norfolk and we are delighted that he will be joining Peter Mason, Farm Manager at Uphouse Farm, and Ian Beecher-Jones of JoJo’s Vineyard and Digital Vineyard on the Farmer Insights Panel at REAP.

The Farmer Insights panel, which gives farmers an opportunity to share their experiences and views of agri-tech developments, is chaired by Tina Barsby OBE.

Data insights reveal ‘five golden days’ – Andrew Peal, Salle Farms 

Andrew Peal - REAP 2022

Andrew has worked abroad in Egypt, Sudan and Serbia before returning to the UK to manage a number of farms in the Brecks, in Norfolk. These farms were growing largely irrigated crops which included high value vegetables.

Salle Farms, along with three other major Norfolk farming businesses – NE Salmon, the Holkham Estate and Raynham Estates – are part of the Catalyst Farming Programme, which aims to share data and best practice and benefit from the analytical insights revealed by information sharing. The results were discussed in an Agri-Tech Week event in 2021, where it was reported that pooling and analysis of data has revealed an optimum time window for crop establishment and where maximum gross margins are likely to be made – the ‘Five Golden Days’.

Andrew is keen to continue the work done at Salle with academics looking at ways to minimise the farm’s impact on the environment and to gain greater value from inputs applied.

Precision farming to reduce input costs and drive efficiencies – Peter Mason, Uphouse Farm

Poultry farmer Peter Mason is passionate about sustainability and innovation in the agricultural sector, always striving for new efficiencies in the day-to-day and long-term farming practices.  He says: “Broiler farming is a high-input high-output business. Soaring input costs and ever-increasing pressure for environmental sustainability are two huge talking points in our industry.

“Feed is our largest input, making up around 70% of the cost of each flock, simultaneously being responsible for around 80% of greenhouse gas emissions in the poultry sector. That makes our Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) one the biggest driver of both economic and environmental sustainability.”

Peter is a big believer in precision farming, taking a data-driven approach to improving performance across the farm’s broiler business.

“I am excited about the potential of data-led and data-driven decision-making for the poultry industry and think we can do more in terms of using the data available. We have access to a huge amount of data, and I would like to be able to analyse this in more depth to understand better what we need to change and then see that applied in practice.”

Ian Beecher-Jones, JoJo’s Vineyard and Digital Vineyard

Ian Beecher-Jones

Ian established JoJo’s Vineyard in 2019 and has been developing a ‘Digital Vineyard’, which integrates precision viticulture techniques with the real-world vineyard using RTK level tools and techniques.

Ian explains: “My background is precision agriculture from a broadacre perspective, so when we started to plant up the vineyard about four years ago, I was keen to introduce automation, as a number of tasks, especially mowing and under-vine management, are very labour intensive. However, to enable this there is a need to digitise the vineyard accurately and correctly and make a representation that is shareable, so whoever we are working with – drone, robot or satellite providers – can have access to the digital infrastructure of the vineyard.

“We are working with the EU-based i4Trust project (i4trust.org) to create a digital twin of the vineyard. We are using an RTK surveying tool that creates a hyper-local GPS grid of the vineyard, showing every post and every vine.”

Ian will be discussing progress at REAP 2022.

Read more from Ian here.


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022 

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

Farmers and Defra – talking and listening to advance agri-innovation at the REAP Farmers Breakfast

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

A recent review by Savills of the performance of farmland to the end of 2021 found that a number of global institutions and asset managers had rebranded their farmland and forestry investment themes to include a focus on “natural capital investing”, driven by increasing interest in the potential of income streams offered by carbon, biodiversity and other elements of natural capital. The report concludes that permanent crops are where these trends overlap, meeting needs for food and natural capital at the same time. 

Farm businesses are looking at non-traditional income streams and the government has supported this investigation through its Farm Investment Fund and Sustainable Farm Incentive. In parallel, the Transforming Food Programme has facilitated the exploration of alternative futures for food production, such as agri-robotics, insect-tech and vertical farming – with many of these collaborative projects including farm businesses.

There remains a strong need for farmers to be involved in the evolution of agri-tech to ensure it meets the needs of producers. At REAP 2022 the Farmers Panel will provide a grounding for the discussions, and the day starts with the Farmers Breakfast, sponsored by Savills.

The need for funding and innovation never been greater

Alex Bragg
Alex Bragg, Savills

Talking about the REAP Farmers Breakfast, Alex Bragg, Director, Head of Cambridge Rural Department, Food & Farming at Savills, comments:

“We are delighted to sponsor the Farmers Breakfast in advance of the REAP conference once again. Farming finds itself in unprecedented times and the need for funding and innovation has never been greater; to boost productivity, continually improve margin and to provide environmental benefit back to UK plc.

“We very much look forward to Tim’s view on the future of funding for the UK farming industry.”

 

Tim Mordan Defra
Tim Mordan, Defra

Tim Mordan of Defra to speak and listen at Farmers Breakfast

Tim Mordan is a Deputy Director in Defra’s Agri-Food Chain Directorate and he will be presenting at the Farmers Breakfast and participating in the discussion.

Tim’s responsibilities include: farming productivity and competitiveness; R&D; innovation; agri-tech, food and farming science; and access to labour. Part of his remit includes genetic resources, including the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill that is currently in Parliament.

Tim was part of the team that introduced the Food Safety Act, and has worked on various aspects of reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

He says: “Farming is an industry with long lead times and deep traditions. The development of agri-tech is relatively new and yet in recent years we have seen radical changes on progressive farms, particularly around the use of data and adoption of precision agriculture. The industry has shown that it is ready and able to embrace change.

“Over recent times Defra has been working closely with farmers on the development of initiatives that will help diversify the sources of income and there is growing evidence that it is possible to increase productivity in a way that is good for food security, good for the environment and good for business.

“The invitation to talk directly to farmers at the REAP Farmers Breakfast has come at a time of great change and I am looking forward to giving an update on Defra’s initiatives including the Farming Innovation Programme and hearing from those who want to shape the direction of innovation.”

Harvesting robots, disease warning and soil health

Automation, reducing risk and improved methods for monitoring improvements in soil are on the wish list for many farmers. Funding for innovations to address these challenges has come through the Defra Farming Innovation Programme, which is shortly to open its next round.

Successful bids in the first round were announced in August 2022 and included many collaborations of Agri-TechE members. Projects will include a herd of harvesting robots, an early warning system for crop diseases and benchmarking to assess soil health.

Farmers attending REAP are warmly invited to join the discussion in the Farmers Breakfast. 

 


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

Agricultural digital twins reveal alternative futures

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE
Marcelo Valdares Galdos
Dr Marcelo Valadares Galdos, Soil Carbon Specialist at Rothamsted Research

Future climate projections show that the frequency of more extreme events in terms of precipitation and droughts is predicted to increase and this is leading to an increase in demand for better climate information and agricultural digital twins will have a role in this, explains Dr Marcelo Valadares Galdos, ahead of REAP 2022 where he is speaking.

Marcelo’s particular interest is soil health and climate-smart agriculture. He was on secondment to the Met Office for several years, exploring how its climate services could provide additional benefit to farmers. He has recently joined Rothamsted Research as a Soil Carbon Specialist in the Sustainable Soils and Crops department.

His research projects have included developing agricultural digital twins and agri-environmental sensor networks for decision support. This has included experimenting with novel sensors and use of robotics for soil monitoring.

Turning climate data into actionable insights

Previously as part of the Leeds Smart Agri-Systems initiative, Marcelo  was involved in turning the highly instrumented farm at Tadcaster, Yorkshire, into a Smart Farm to monitor soils, vegetation and livestock. The Smart Farm aims to study processes that are important economically for productivity and yields but also for the environment and in mitigating climate change.

He explains: “By using the UK climate projections UKCP18 – which is the most recent high-resolution climate projection for the UK – we have examined how extreme events could impact soils, particularly in terms of highly erosive rainfall events, when precipitation falls in a short period with a lot of energy and volume.

“This has obvious links to flooding, runoff and pollution, but it also leads to the detachment of soil particles, leading to losses of nutrients, carbon and fertile topsoil, which takes centuries to replenish.”

The concept of Climate Services – turning weather and climate data into something that stakeholders can actually use to make smart decisions – has a lot of potential applications in the food production sector.

“Translating what seasonal forecasts might mean for when to cultivate the soil, plant, apply fertilizer and harvest is a whole area of interest to me.

“Combining climate projections with information on land use and agricultural management practices, we can develop ‘what if?’ scenarios, which are useful to identify ‘climate-smart’ options that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“One of the advantages of this approach is to see ‘what could I do to improve the sustainability in my specific farm or region with my microclimate and my soil type?’

“I think the most interesting approach is when you include economics as well – input costs, commodity prices, environmental externalities and so on. The question then becomes ‘What could I do in an economically viable way to become more sustainable?’”

Improving methods of carbon measurement with sampling robot

Soil health is important for mitigating climate change. Carbon as a component of organic matter is important to the structure, fertility and soil moisture retention in soils, but storage is also important. Accurate ways to measure carbon directly in soils is a major challenge and one that Marcelo’s team has been addressing.

“We have been taking a science-based approach to the monitoring, reporting and verification of soil carbon, by deploying sensors at multiple scales – satellite-based but also drones and proximal sensing, such as sensors that scan soils and direct sampling.

“Conventional soil sampling is costly and time-consuming, so part of the project is looking at non-destructive ways to scan key properties of soil and how to locate sensors to provide the most useful information

“Our approach is to use a lot of other information from remote sensing, from management systems and from scanning the soils with certain sensors, then identifying the best places to actually do in-depth sampling.

“This is a really exciting area of science. We particularly want to know the carbon stocks – ie how much carbon is in a certain area to a certain depth.

“One of the projects is a scoping study using a rover robot instrumented with novel sensors. This will provide a deeper understanding of spatial variability across the plot I hope to have some interesting results to discuss at REAP.”

Modelling – Sensor networks and agricultural digital twins

Marcelo’s team has been applying the Internet-of-Things (IoT) concept to agri-environmental monitoring, generating data on soil chemical, physical and biological variables, and also on climate and vegetation. However, collecting the data is just one element of the jigsaw.

The idea is that these sensors are connected but also that there is data fusion with different types of sensors combined to generate other outputs that are viewable from a dashboard.

“For the last several decades we have been applying computer representations of crops and soils for scientific research, and this is one part of the puzzle, but the idea of digital twins encompasses the workflow of the data, from collection and analysis through to visualisation and its presentation on a dashboard of real-time data with actionable insights.

“However, connectivity is still an issue. At the Leeds smart farm, where I was working before, there is a lot of instrumentation already, and it is a challenge to transmit and to have near real-time connectivity, and this is an issue in most rural settings.

“Improved connectivity would be game-changing everywhere, not only in the globally remote areas.

“When all of those elements start to come together we can start to use agricultural digital twins for decision support, and I think we will have something that is very powerful indeed.”

Rothamsted Research

 

 


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk

REAP 2022 bursary enables more farmers and students see how the digital world is shaping agriculture

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE
Peter Mason, Uphouse Farm
Peter Mason of Uphouse Farm will be on the Farmers Panel at REAP 2022

“At the end of the day, I am a farmer, not a data analyst. We have access to a huge amount of data, and I would like to be able to analyse this in more depth to understand better what we need to change and then see that applied in practice,” says poultry farmer Peter Mason, farm manager of Uphouse Farm Ltd. He will be on the Farmers’ Panel of REAP 2022 with the theme ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’. There is a REAP 2022 bursary available for farmers and students. 

“I am excited about the potential of data-led and data-driven decision-making for the sector and think we can do more in terms of using the data available. Collaboration is key to achieve higher efficiency in our sector and I believe we have a lot to learn from each other.”

REAP has been the launchpad for many successful collaborations and having a good representation of farmers to shape the discussions is key.

The farmer-tech session last year, in which early adopters discussed the challenges of introducing new tools and processes, was particularly insightful.

Why not come to REAP 2022 to learn about how the digital world is helping the agri industry make more informed decisions?

To enable as many farmers as possible to attend, the REAP 2022 bursary is available for farmers, and also to students in full time education in agriculture or a related science.

Farmer-centric innovation is core to the REAP conference and rate of technology adoption is increasing, judging by the speed in which cutting-edge agri-tech featured in the Start-Up Showcase is becoming operational in the field.

Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association is sponsoring the REAP 2022 bursary

The bursary for REAP 2022 is kindly sponsored by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA).

RNAAMark Nicholas MBE, Managing Director of the RNAA, says: “The RNAA is a leading organisation in Norfolk for the promotion of and support to food production, farming and the countryside. Over 175 years we have harnessed the farming community and provided a connection with consumers through events such as the Royal Norfolk Show, the UK’s largest two-day agricultural Show, and the Norfolk Farming Conference. As a membership organisation we facilitate a community of growers, farmers, landowners and industry professionals to showcase the Agri-food sector.

“The RNAA is delighted to support the REAP Conference 2022 and the deep dive into the next phase of on-farm digital technology. We see knowledge exchange as a vital means to inform practitioners within the industry and to inspire new entrants. As a sponsor we are particularly keen to ensure that the conference is as accessible as possible to UK growers, farmers and those in full-time education in agriculture.”

Why not come to REAP 2022 to learn about how the digital world is helping the agri industry make more informed decisions?

Interested in the REAP 2022 bursary? Hear from others that have participated in previous REAP conferences:

Tom Pearson, Farmer at Manor Farm, Caxton, Cambs, comments: “Our farm has long term goals of sustaining and eventually increasing output while maximising biodiversity, carbon sequestration and net zero farming. We are always on the look-out for incremental and game changing technology that helps us reach that goal. Hearing from current start-ups in AgTech and farmer-led projects helps us to be early adopters and know how to act now to adapt our business to accommodate these new technologies and practices.”

Robert Gemmill, Farmer at Sayers Farm, Essex, agrees: “Being a small arable farmer in Essex, growing a small range of crops using traditional cultivation and drilling methods, the REAP conference will hopefully stimulate new thinking to progress the farm and business in the future.”

Like many of the events in Agri-Tech Week, REAP offers BASIS points, which endorses its educational value, something that is appreciated by Seamus Kelly, Tractor Driver at Besthorpe, Norfolk: “Innovation is important in a future career because its more about implementing solutions instead of working around our problems hoping they will go away on their own. I am attending the conference to update my knowledge and information with the view to make valuable contributions to our agriculture based projects.”

Jessica Nuboer, Student at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, comments: “I am keen to learn more about regenerative agricultural practices and its relation to conventional norms. As an industry, I believe agribusiness needs to heal topsoil, prevent chemical runoff and pollution of freshwater resources, and practice responsible agriculture. I believe that by attending the REAP conference, I will gain the relevant knowledge and networking opportunities to support my future.”

UK growers, farmers and those in full-time education in agriculture (or an agriculture-related discipline such as plant science, agri-engineering, environmental sciences etc.) are eligible to apply for a bursary, which reduces the delegate ticket to £60 (+VAT) per delegate.

Apply for the bursary now. The closing date for applications is Friday 28 October 2022.


REAP 2022: Making Sense of AgricultureREAP 2022: ‘Making Sense of Agriculture’ – Tuesday 8th November 2022 

From yield mapping and precision livestock through to digital twins and cloud computing, at REAP 2022 we will be exploring the technology and looking at the implications from a field to landscape level. Making technology farm-centric is core to Agri-TechE’s mission so a key feature of the conference will be a panel of farmers and producers discussing the emerging technologies and future scenarios.

reapconference.co.uk