REAP Conference 2024 registration is open
Book tickets, feature in the technology exhibition or apply for a REAP bursary - available for farmers and those in full-time agriculture-related study

Beyond the comfort zone – REAP 2023 report captures the vibrancy of the day

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

“2023 has been quite a year in the farming industry,” observed John Barrett, Director of Sentry, and Chair of the Agri-TechE Stakeholder Group, as he opened the REAP Conference. “We started the year with wheat prices at a record high and have finished with wheat prices falling and crop input costs seemingly out of control.

“Such is the rollercoaster of farming, but our challenge is to try and take back some of that control and reduce those costs, by adapting our businesses and learning from others. This is very much the ethos of REAP.”

Rapid change has been a feature of the last five years, with far-reaching impacts on global agriculture and horticulture. The mood at the REAP conference was surprisingly buoyant as the agri-tech ecosystem came together to discuss emerging technology, science, and on-farm practices, that are providing opportunities for optimism.

We have attempted to capture some of that positivity in the REAP 2023 report.

REAP report 2023
Download REAP Report here or click image above

REAP Conference 2024 will take place on Wednesday 6 November in Newmarket.

Networking is a big element of REAP – it provides an opportunity for farmers and other end users to talk directly to technology developers and for others in the community to create collaborations and partnerships. Here are some comments from attendees and exhibitors:

“An outstanding REAP, consistent with the high standard of every Agri-TechE event. We were very happy to be part of the Exhibition and to engage with so many new people.

“The Innovation for a Sustainable Supply Chain was extremely valuable, as was the excellent Farmer Insights Panel and as always great to see new agritech companies in the Start-Up Showcase.”


“I had a great time at REAP, it was my first time attending the conference and was so pleased I was able to make it after lots of recommendations from my colleagues. I think the day was incredibly well organised and I really enjoyed the stalls whilst networking.”


I thoroughly enjoyed the REAP conference. I thought the content was very good quality, the structure of the day was good, with each session slightly different; I made a number of good links I shall be following up. Plenty of interesting people to talk with.


Agri-TechE Director Dr Belinda Clarke closed the conference by looking forward to the coming year, when the membership organisation celebrates its tenth year.

“Over the last ten years, significant developments in technology and changes in economics have increased the pull for more automation, changing the dynamics in cost-benefit analysis.

“As a result we are seeing rapid adoption of new technologies and approaches.

“The membership is also changing, becoming increasingly diverse and international, creating a supportive environment in which to scale and expand.

“We have had a record number of new members this year, and over the coming months we will be looking ahead and harnessing the thinking of the membership about the desired direction of travel.

“As the experiences of recent years have taught us, in order to build a productive, profitable, and sustainable agri-food industry, we must move away from the comfort zone and become open to the new opportunities that exist when we ‘stretch’.

“I am excited about the journey ahead.”

Rothamsted Enterprises
DIGITLab REAP 2023 sponsor
New Anglia LEP REAP 2023 Sponsor
RNAA - REAP sponsor
JA Kemp REAP 2023 sponsor
REAP 2023 logo

The Agri-Tech Conference: Adapt & Innovate at REAP ’23

Agri-TechE Blog
Agri-TechE

Conference season might seem like a carousel of speakers, networking sessions, and buffet sandwiches, yet their value remains as significant as ever. So, while ’tis the season (the agri-tech conference season…), come and discover what REAP 2023 has in store!

As we know, the world has changed a lot over the last few years (which – not entirely coincidentally – inspired this year’s REAP theme!). Our first REAP, back in 2014, sold out with just 100 delegates, and since then we’ve expanded and introduced a technology exhibition and the farmer-exclusive breakfast.

As we rev up for REAP 2023, we’ve been reflecting on the expansion of agri-tech conferences over the last decade, and how to get the most from them.

Fewer freebies, less waste, more efficient

What’s changed, and more importantly, what’s stayed the same?

While Covid may have influenced working behaviours, it’s heartening to see conference attendance returning to pre-pandemic levels. Yet, the focus has shifted towards sustainability. Goodbye, delegate bags crammed with fistfuls of advertising flyers, stress toys and pens; hello, digital delegate packs and reusable badges.

And the great Business Card Conundrum continues. A recent experience at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit suggests the ritual exchange of business cards remains A Thing (undeterred by their potential as carriers of Covid and the plenty of tech alternatives to connect people). And while these cardboard squares may seem quaint in a room of cutting-edge technologies, these cards become your post-conference trail of important conversations, new and rekindled connections, and – crucially – the need to follow up.

As expectations rise for in-person events and virtual fatigue sets in, the goal is to ensure that attending a conference is time well spent.

Community and Connection – REAPing your reward

So, what attracts people to attend conferences?

Attendees come to grapple with shared industry challenges – united with an ambition for collective change – and to catch a glimpse of the future.

At REAP 2023, we’ve lined up two thought leaders for the keynote session: Defra’s Chief Scientific Advisor Prof Gideon Henderson and NFU Vice President David Exwood who will show us the direction of travel for science and agriculture, and – hopefully – where and how the two will convene.

And attendees come to learn, certainly, but the primary allure is in meeting and expanding your network.

At REAP, we’ve built a welcoming ecosystem with plenty of networking opportunities. This is a chance to connect, share ideas, and expand your circle. It seems simple, but it really is the case that the more you put in, the more you get out. Seize this opportunity at REAP – save emails and phone calls for the train journey home!

If you’re new to networking, the tech exhibition booths are an excellent place to start – our exhibitors are eager to share their knowledge and show off their products!

Presenting the Presentations

It’s not just about making connections; it’s also about making sense. The job of a conference organiser is to deliver a programme pitched at the right level for a diverse audience. So an exciting line-up of well-briefed speakers is key – learning from people we might have heard about, be impressed or challenged by, or even follow on social media. The chance to meet them in person and learn from them first-hand can be a compelling reason to spend a precious day in a lecture theatre.

At REAP 2023:

  • We’ll explore supply chain “discomfort” with representatives from global businesses Diageo, Tesco and AM Fresh who have responsibility for sustainability as well as continuity.
  • The technology is also a key attraction, with farmers, investors and the media all looking for the “next big thing” poised to transform the industry. The REAP tech exhibition has a line-up of cool, available new tech to explore alongside offering unique insights about the status of the industry.

The (conference) room where it happens

But it’s not just about the presentations, it’s about the people “in the room”.

Central to any agricultural conference should be the farmers. Their presence ensures that the insights and discussions are rooted in the practicalities of farming. At REAP they’ll be there on a speaker panel, chairing sessions and as part of the audience – challenging the speakers to keep it real!

So, why attend REAP 2023? It’s your chance to network, learn, be inspired, and explore the future of agriculture. Hopefully you’ll leave with some new insights, a stack of business cards and a smile.

And if doing this for the 10th time has taught us anything about running a conference, it’s to make sure the lunch arrives on time!  

To register for REAP click here – and for farmers and students in full-time education in an ag-related subject, apply for a REAP bursary here.



REAP 2023 logo

REAP Conference 2023:
Adaptation Through Innovation; Beyond the Comfort Zone

Wednesday 8th November, 9:30 am – 6:30 pm
Rowley Mile Conference Centre, Newmarket

Surviving and thriving under increasingly extreme and unpredictable challenges is the theme of the 2023 REAP conference. To build a productive, profitable and sustainable agri-food industry, we must move away from the comfort zone and become open to the new opportunities that exist when we ‘stretch’.  Be a part of that future – bring yourself and your ideas to REAP.

reapconference.co.uk

REAP bursary was highly beneficial to my career progression

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

Now a Research Consultant at Vegetable Consultancy Services (UK) Ltd, Dr James Fortune had just started his PhD when he gained a bursary for Agri-TechE’s REAP Conference 2018. He found the conference inspirational and says the contacts and insights he made have been highly beneficial to his career progression.

Memorable presentation

“I have been to many conferences since but that REAP was memorable.

“The keynote speaker Dr Zhenling Cui discussed nitrogen use efficiency and he was inspiring, to be honest. He had a paper in Nature, and to see someone of that calibre speak and to share some of their time with you was phenomenal.

“If I remember correctly, he had something like 20 million different data points, and it was the first time I saw some real solid concrete data that specific reductions in nitrogen do not reduce yields. Being able to produce the same amount of yield, if not more, by applying the data was transformational. It was a really good presentation, and one that really sticks in my mind.

“Whenever you come away from a conference you wonder what you’ve brought away from it. I’ve been to quite a few big conferences and there’s only a handful that I can remember so distinctly. At REAP I was fully locked into what was being said.

Developing contacts with REAP bursary

“It was especially good timing as it was early in my PhD following a year in industry at ADAS, and when you are early in a career it is all about building up the networks and the contacts.

“That’s one of the benefits I see from Agri-TechE’s approach – it’s very good at linking everybody together. Coming to an event like REAP, everyone is from different backgrounds but they’re all like-minded and keen to talk.

James Fortune benefitted from REAP bursary
James Fortune is now a Research Consultant at Vegetable Consultancy Services
Dr Zhenling Cui spoke at REAP 2018 about his study published in Nature
James Fortune presenting in the Emerging Agri-Tech session at REAP 2021
James Fortune discussing impact of climate change on diseases of oil seed rape in Emerging Agri-Tech at the virtual REAP 2021

Understanding the science

James continues, “Some science conferences can be a little bit too academically-focused, and a little bit hard to comprehend or get a foothold in. Alternatively, some industry events can be a bit basic and you want more depth.

“I thought the REAP conference managed the balance well. There’s lots of different areas of expertise all being presented at the same time. It introduces things that you might not be familiar with, but you can draw parallels from that and bring it into your own work or your own thinking.

“I later presented in the Emerging Agri-Tech section of REAP 2021 about the impact of climate change on pathogens in oilseed rape and I am due to present further development of this work at the International Rapeseed Congress in Australia.”

Why come to REAP?

“If I was to sum up REAP in a few bullet-points it would be:

  • Inspirational speeches, such as that from Zhenling Cui.
  • High quality networking.
  • Gaining a broad knowledge and understanding of how the wider world impacts agriculture.”

Apply for a REAP bursary

The bursary for REAP 2023 is kindly sponsored by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA).

It is open to UK growers, farmers and those in full-time education in agriculture or related discipline and reduces the cost of the ticket to £65 per delegate.

To apply go to the bursary tab on the REAP microsite.

Other beneficiaries of the REAP bursary include farmer Tom Pearson and George Crane who was a PhD researcher at NIAB and is now working as an agri-tech investment analyst with YARA.

See who benefited from the bursary in 2022.

James Fortune, Research Consultant at Vegetable Consultancy Services, will be speaking at ‘Ag101 – An Introduction to the Industry’ on 14th September 2023 in Cambridge. See more on the event page here.


REAP Conference 2023: Adaptation Through Innovation; Beyond the Comfort Zone

Wednesday 8th November, 9:30 am – 6:30 pm
Rowley Mile Conference Centre, Newmarket

Surviving and thriving under increasingly extreme and unpredictable challenges is the theme of the 2023 REAP conference. To build a productive, profitable and sustainable agri-food industry, we must move away from the comfort zone and become open to the new opportunities that exist when we ‘stretch’.  Be a part of that future – bring yourself and your ideas to REAP.

reapconference.co.uk

REAP Conference 2023 sponsors announced

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

The REAP conference is Agri-TechE’s flagship event that unites our ecosystem around a topical theme. Our biggest event of the year attracts researchers, innovators and farmers from across the UK, and beyond.

With an overall goal of enhancing the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of agriculture, REAP focuses first on the needs of farmers and the everyday challenges they face.

We are delighted to announce the 2023 sponsors for our 10th REAP Conference!

Innovate UK

Event support

Innovate UK is one of the nine research councils within UK Research and Innovation. UKRI creates knowledge with impact by investing over £8 billion a year in research and innovation by working with Government and partnering with academia and industry to help make the impossible, possible.

With a focus on industry led innovation, Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn these ideas into commercially successful products and services, and business growth. Within this, agriculture and food is a key sector within our portfolio.

As such, we are delighted to be supporting this year’s REAP conference. We recognise the valuable role Agri-TechE has in connecting key players across the sector while also debating the challenges and opportunities at this important event.

We hope you will come and meet us on our stand to discuss any ideas you may have for innovative solutions and to hear about ways in which we might be able to offer support.

Discover the Farming Innovation Programme.

View member page | ukri.org/councils/innovate-uk | @innovateuk

DIGITLab

Sponsor of the Emerging Agri-Tech session

DIGIT Lab is a UK national research centre, accelerating digital innovation and digital transformation in Large Established Organizations (LEOs1). Our 5-year research programme has over £10M in funding from the participating universities, industry partners, and the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC).

DIGIT Lab is led by the University of Exeter, in collaboration with academics from the University of East Anglia, Oxford Brookes University, and Royal Holloway University London. We are also supported by over 20 industry partners. We have an open, coordinated approach, advancing research and supporting the acceleration of digital transformation in the UK. The project works with a broad community of academics, practitioners, and policymakers across multiple domains, delivering new research insights into digital transformation.

The team works with LEOs to reimagine them for the digital age – in ways that go beyond merely digitising current offerings. We address the core transformation challenges which accompany a digital-first approach.

DIGIT Lab takes a multidisciplinary approach; we are a team of computer scientists, designers, engineers, Internet technologists, telecommunications specialists, social scientists and business scholars. The team works with a wide variety of academics across the sectors of agritech (including animal health and animal pharma); automotive, construction; healthcare; manufacturing; professional services; transport; government and public services. For further information contact Prof. Gerard Parr – University of East Anglia g.parr@uea.ac.uk 

The project brochure | digit.ac.uk  |   @DIGITLabUK

JA Kemp REAP 2023 sponsor

J A Kemp

Field sponsor

A wide range of developments in the agri-tech sector are patentable, and J A Kemp’s attorneys are experienced in obtaining strong and commercially relevant patent protection for agri-tech inventions.

We have expertise across the sector with specialists in: plant science, including transgenic technology, plant breeding and new breeding techniques (such as CRISPR gene editing); herbicide/pesticide chemistry; animal science, including gene editing and animal breeding, feeds and supplements, diagnostics and health monitoring, including AI-based systems; and agricultural engineering.

We also have specialist expertise in Plant Variety Rights. We file applications for protection with the UK and Community (EU) Plant Variety Right Offices, and advise on strategies to secure equivalent protection around the world. We also help our clients with other forms of intellectual property such as trademarks and design rights, which are routinely used to protect developments in the agri-tech sector.

View member page | jakemp.com | @J_A_Kemp

New Anglia LEP REAP 2023 Sponsor

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership

Sponsor of the Networking Reception

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) works with businesses, academia, and the public sector to drive growth and enterprise in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Agri-Food Industry Council provides strategic leadership for the region’s agri-food sector, reporting to the LEP Board and driving forward projects (around innovation, skills and inward investment) and initiatives such as working with partners in the Eastern region (including Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough).

New Anglia LEP hosts both the New Anglia Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (NAAME) and Space East cluster networks. Both of these clusters have worked in collaboration with Agri-TechE and partners to drive innovation in the agri-food sector.

The funding for REAP 2023 has come from New Anglia LEP’s Connected Innovation programme, which connects together 25 innovation hubs, research institutes, universities, and Freeport East to focus on driving cross-sector innovation in Norfolk and Suffolk. Agri-Tech is a key area of focus for this programme working together with regional partners such as Agri-TechE and Norwich Research Park and national partners such as Innovate UK (including Catapult Network, EDGE, KTN) and Government Departments (including the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business and Trade).

newanglia.co.uk  |  @NewAngliaLEP

Rothamsted Enterprises

Rothamsted Enterprises

Sponsor of the Start-Up Showcase

Rothamsted Enterprises is at the heart of agricultural research and is located on the world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus. We’re a unique hub, focused on supporting start-up agri-tech companies, and facilitate introductions with Rothamsted Research colleagues.

On site we offer collaborative laboratory and office space, access to scientific kit and services and have a large conference centre and restaurant on site that can be used by our clients. With over 30 companies based with us we are developing a vibrant community of growing agri-tech businesses.

Nicole Sadd, CEO of Rothamsted Enterprises, said:

“Our links with Agri-TechE are vital to us which is why we are so proud to be sponsoring the Start-Up Showcase at the REAP Conference. The opportunity to meet early-stage organisations at the cutting edge of the agri-tech sector is exciting and really reflects what Rothamsted Enterprises represents. As an organisation, Rothamsted Enterprises is committed to supporting innovation, collaboration and excellence in agri-tech research, particularly in the East of England and through our partners such as Agri-TechE.”

View member page |

rothamstedenterprises.com | @RothamstedCRE

RNAA

Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA)

Sponsor of the Bursary

Mark 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 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.”

View member page | rnaa.org.uk | @RNAAuk

Savills

Sponsor of the Farmer Breakfast

Savills was founded as a rural surveying business more than 150 years ago. Today it is a global real estate services provider listed on the London Stock Exchange with an international network of more than 600 offices and associates.

Savills offers a broad range of specialist advisory, management and transactional services to clients all over the world. True to their roots, the UK rural economy remains an integral part of their business and their rural teams are focused on the commercial needs of landowners, farmers and agricultural enterprises. In the East of England, specialist advisers based in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Essex work together to provide innovative solutions aimed at adding value and maximising their clients’ assets.

Savills’ wide ranging expertise covers agribusiness advice to meet the changing needs of modern farming; farm and estate agency; estate management and consultancy; professional services and renewable energy projects.

Savills is deeply committed to life and business in the countryside. They identify with their clients’ objectives – Savills’ role is to help their clients achieve them however ambitious they may seem.

View member page | savills.co.uk | @Savills

The REAP Start-Up Showcase – where are they now?

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Each year we handpick some of the most exciting early-stage agri-tech companies to take part in the REAP Start-up Showcase.

While not all of these disruptive technologies will reach the market, a high proportion of those featured at REAP are making good progress. Fourteen of the companies featured have raised over £120M in the last three years and others are making waves across the industry. Find out more below.

Casey Woodward, AgriSound

AgriSound provides beekeepers with a range of solutions to enable remote management of hives. It presented at COP26, has raised £250K and is deploying 1 million sensors.

Appeared in 2021.

Howard Wu, founder of Antobot

Antobot is developing small, intelligent, affordable robotics for sustainable agriculture; it secured £1.2M in seed funding in 2020.

Appeared in 2020.

Better Origin at REAP 2015

Better Origin has developed the world’s first autonomous insect mini-farm. It uses insects to create protein for animal feed from food waste. The company raised $16M in 2022.

Appeared in 2015.

Ian Wheal, Breedr, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase

Breedr is a productivity and marketing platform that allow farmers to track everything about their animals to improve animal welfare and profitability. It raised $15.8M in 2022.

Appeared in 2018.

Dogtooth at REAP

Dogtooth is developing intelligent robots for soft fruit picking. It raised £7M in a Series A funding round in 2021.

Appeared in 2016.

Ilan Adler, EcoNomad, at REAP 2019

EcoNomad Solutions offers an affordable waste to energy solution for smallholder farmers. Its technology uses bacteria to generate biogas. It has raised funding through SHAKE.

Appeared in 2019.

fieldmargin at REAPO 2015

fieldmargin is an innovative farm mapping software helping farmers to make more informed day-to-day decisions. Its product is used by thousands of farms across 170 countries.

Appeared in 2015.

SoSeRaH - Fieldwork Robotics (c)

Fieldwork Robotics has developed soft, selective, and autonomous raspberry-harvesting robots. Their Seedrs campaign in May 2023 raised £1.1M.

Appeared in 2021.

Ed Fuchs, FOLIUM Science, at REAP 2018

FOLIUM Science‘s Guided Biotics® technology supports a healthy microbiome – in plants and livestock. It gained UKRI funding for a collaborative project to control Pseudomonas and boost yield in tomatoes.

Appeared in 2018.

Fotenix

FOTENIX Technology offers cost-effective crop analysis in the field. It has partnered with major robotics manufacturers and was selected for Tesco Agri T-Jam in 2020.

Appeared in 2019.

FungiAlert at REAP 2016

FA-Bio (previously FungiAlert) based at Rothamsted, created SporSenZ a tool for soil microbial analysis. They have deployed 2600 units across the world. FA-Bio were awarded funding from the Farming Innovation Programme in June 2023 to develop a biopesticide using native soil and plant inhabiting fungi.

Appeared in 2016.

Gardin optical phenotyping

Gardin‘s UL listed Phenotyping Sensor device provides early indication of plant stress through analysing photosynthetic performance in greenhouses and vertical farms. It raised $1.2M in pre-seed funding in 2021 and £8.15M in seed funding for its optical sensors.

Appeared in 2021.

Rob Sanders, Glas Data, at REAP 2019

GLAS Data offers a easy-to-use data collection and benchmarking platform for use in the field. It has raised £141K to further develop its products.

Appeared in 2019

Liam Dolan, MoA Technology, at REAP 2019

MOA Technology is a plant genetics company spun out from the University of Oxford. It’s 2020 Series B round closed on $44M.

Appeared in 2019.

PBD Biotech at REAP 2016

PBD Biotech has developed an Actiphage® diagnostics kit for the rapid, sensitive blood/milk testing for bovine TB and Johne’s Disease. It has raised over £2M and launched a commercial Johne’s Disease testing service. In January 2023 it refocused efforts on Human TB.

Appeared in 2016.

Daniel Bahia, PheroSyn (web)

PheroSyn develops and produces novel pest pheromones. It raised a £200K Innovate UK grant in 2021, embarked on a 36-month collaboration project with Rothamsted Research in 2022. And in 2023, they won the Radicle Inclusion Challenge securing a USD $750,000 investment.

Appeared in 2020.

YAGRO Co-founder Gareth Davies presents at REAP 2015

Yagro uses data analytics to improve business decisions, aggregating on-farm data to provide detail and insight into current and historical performance. In 2021, Yagro joined the Frontier Group and in 2023 they launched Yagro Tracker for live tracking of costs and sales.

Appeared in 2015.

Zelp aims to significantly reduce environmental impacts of livestock industry via their methane-targeting wearables for cattle. It raised $10M Series A funding in 2021.

Appeared in 2019.

We are keeping the line-up for the 2023 Start-Up Showcase companies under wraps until REAP 2023 – join us live on 8 November to find out who will be the next big players in agri-tech.


REAP 2023 logo

REAP Conference 2023:
Adaptation Through Innovation; Beyond the Comfort Zone

Wednesday 8th November, 9:30 am – 6:30 pm
Rowley Mile Conference Centre, Newmarket

reapconference.co.uk

Does life begin at the edge of your comfort zone?

Agri-TechE Blog
Agri-TechE

At REAP 2023 we’ll be exploring what benefits can be gained – for people, crops and livestock – from moving out of the comfort zone and into the “stretch” zone.

And what being in the “panic” zone means for the long-term future of our industry.

Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Agriculture has always operated in the face of challenges. Rarely do we see a perfect growing season, ideal input costs, favourable trading conditions, a stable policy environment, and a smooth supply chain.  

The industry is historically used to being “uncomfortable” and having to respond to unforeseen or unwelcome changes.

But we are now in an environment where those challenges are becoming increasingly extreme and unpredictable. So our systems (both in the natural world and in business) need to adapt to be able to cope with them.

Too much or too little water, wider extremes of temperature, increasing salinity and even the migration or emergence of new pests and diseases all put additional strain on the biological systems in and on a farm.

Supply chain pressures, administrative requirements, labour and talent shortages and tight margins mean that few agri-food businesses can claim to be comfortably operating where they would most like to be.

And the recent nexus of the global pandemic, major geo-political unrest, and increasingly extreme weather events are making life very challenging indeed, stretching people and businesses into potentially uncharted territory.

What’s Your Zone?

Psychological theory has identified three “zones” – Comfort, Stretch and Panic – that stimulate different types of behaviour. Arguably, the “comfort” zone lacks the motivation to try new things, while the “panic” zone engenders confusion and lack of focus.

The “stretch” zone, however, is where – hypothetically, at least – fresh thinking can happen, processes are improved, and innovation ensues.

As with any theory, the real world doesn’t follow text-book patterns, but we’ve seen the industry – and indeed farm businesses – cycle between these different zones over the years.

There is no doubt we are in a seriously stretched zone right now. So, it’s time to act before panic sets in, harnessing this moment to explore, develop and implement new innovations.

Technology… Here To Help

We know technology isn’t the silver bullet. But at REAP 2023 we’re going to explore some of the innovations that we think can help.

Improved forecasting, precision application to deliver what is needed at that precise time, and use of modelling can help with better preparedness. Early tackling of illness in livestock helps maintain welfare standards as well as ensuring quality outputs.

With better monitoring, closer management is possible and there are even arguments for bringing some systems into a protected environment – arguably an artificial ‘comfort zone’.

In addition, those who have adapted to life at the limits can inspire mainstream solutions to develop resilience on farms. Plants with tolerance to inhospitably high levels of salt, heat or cold, for example, can inform breeding approaches to enable the cultivation of less hospitable environments.

Changing the environment in which crops are grown can push them to produce more or widen the arable rotation by using crops better adapted to the new “comfort zones” within which agriculture is operating.

Innovation Hub exhibitors BBRO and Space East

Join us at REAP 2023

By attending this year’s REAP conference – our 10th – you’ll meet forward-thinking farmers looking for new solutions, researchers and tech developers with leading-edge innovations, as well as those making policy, providing funding and finance.

It’s a supportive environment for farmers and innovators to not just survive, but thrive, in their stretch zone. Find out more about REAP 2023.

The REAP conference is Agri-TechE’s flagship event that unites our ecosystem around a topical theme. Our biggest event of the year attracts researchers, innovators and farmers from across the UK – and beyond.

“Probably the best conference of this type I have ever attended!”

With an overall goal of enhancing the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of agriculture, REAP focuses first on the needs of farmers and the everyday challenges they face. We want to help remove the mystery – and mistrust – of technology and innovation so farmers have realistic, tangible solutions that they feel comfortable (and excited!) to adopt. REAP achieves this by sharing information to enhance knowledge and creating a collaborative networking environment to forge new connections.

Along with high impact speakers and the largest profiling and exhibition opportunity for members, REAP also features:

  • The Start-up Showcase which features a line-up of the most innovative early-stage ventures in the industry alongside live exhibitions of cutting-edge technologies in action.
  • Emerging Agri-Tech session that highlights the latest agri-tech research happening at institutions and on farms across the UK.
  • International Café
  • Farmer Breakfast

Book now for REAP 2024 – 6th November.

“The REAP conference has become a permanent and very valuable event for the industry.”

You said it! Now in its 11th year, REAP is firmly established as a must-attend event in the agricultural calendar. Held annually in November, REAP is the highlight of Agri-Tech Week, with tickets going on sale in early summer.

REAP is BASIS point accredited.

Find out more about our REAP conferences with the event reports:

REAP 2023 logo
REAP 2022: Making Sense of Agriculture
REAP 2017
REAP 2016
REAP 2015

Read more about Agri-Tech Week …

Social, Strategic or Opportunistic – How Do You Network?

Agri-TechE Blog
Agri-TechE

Networking at REAP 2017 (POM)“I came here with a specific goal – to meet farmers to recruit into a new soils project – and I’ve achieved it,” a delegate from a major agri-research organisation commented on the REAP feedback form.

Another delegate, this time one of the region’s leading farmers, tweeted to a speaker in the Start-up Showcase: “Been keeping tabs on your development and then saw start up demo @AgriTechEast and thought what have I got to lose?”

And finally, “I should know everyone in this room – but I only know about 20% of them – it’s not the ‘usual crowd’ I always see at agricultural conferences.”

These quotes show the diversity of opportunities for networking and collaboration that emerged during REAP and other events held during Agri-Tech Week in November. They reveal the different ways in which new introductions are made and partnerships can form.

Brief encounter

Networking at REAP (Robert Salmon)Innovation often occurs following chance encounters. This is well recognised by architects who include cafes, seating areas and co-working areas in the design of business incubators such as the Centrum on the Norwich Research Park, the Lawes Open Innovation Hub at Rothamsted, and the Kings Lynn Innovation Hub run by NWES.

However, for many farmers and growers, opportunities to bump into others during their working day is more limited – it mainly happens at events or conferences.

So, we recognise that maximising the chances of farmers meeting new and relevant people when they come to our events is really important so we’re thinking hard about how to make the connection process even more effective. A photo board to help you identify the person you’re looking for? Sophisticated pre-event partnering software? Speed-dating? Watch this space.

The social network

Social media at REAP 2017Social media also has an important role – providing global, national and local insights into new developments, and sharing challenges and experiences. We have seen Twitter being embraced by the community as quick way to ‘bookmark’ key nuggets of information.

However, seeing for yourself and talking face-to-face are still vital communication. We are looking forward to putting this into practical application through our new initiative with AHDB, which will create more on-farm interaction around themes of mutual interest.

Many thanks to all who travelled to, talked at, and tweeted from the conference – looking forward to more interaction next year!

 

REAP 2017

Olombria flies to the rescue of orchards threatened by lack of pollinators

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Agri-TechE

POM
POM’s Tashia Tucker at the 2017 REAP exhibition

Hairy flies that mimic the behaviour of honeybees are being conscripted by start-up Olombria (formerly known as POM) to overcome the dramatic decline in pollinators, it was announced at REAP 2017. The fly ‘body doubles’ are being lured to orchards by pheromones that encourage them to forage among the blossom, pollinating the crop as they do so.

The early-stage company participated in the Technology Exhibition at REAP.

Louis Alderson-Bythell, co-founder of POM, explains: “The numbers of bees and other wild pollinators have been decimated in recent years; although a number of initiatives are trying to boost the numbers of bees, we thought that the role of other pollinators was being overlooked.”

There are a number of species of fly that resemble bees and have hairy bodies that can trap pollen and transport it to the next flower. Their larvae also eat aphids and so have a dual benefit.

Alderson-Bythell was part of a team that entered the RCA’s entry to the 2017 Biodesign Challenge. Their solution uses pheromones to stimulate the fly’s foraging response; these chemicals are released through a series of nodes located through the orchard.

The flies themselves are easy to breed and die at the end of the season so do not need the same degree of care required by bees. POM believes that the large monocultures across California and Australia, which rely on migrant beekeepers, have the most to gain from its pollination system.

POM at REAP 2017Alderson-Bythell says: “Over recent years we have seen flowering starting earlier, before the natural pollinators are inflight, which is creating additional demands on cultivated bees. These travelling bees are also prone to disease as their immune systems are compromised by access to a limited variety of food.

Olombria is working with leading agricultural research organisations including Imperial College, Rothamsted Research, and NIAB-EMR to develop an Internet-of-things (IoT) system consisting of a network of small nodes spread throughout an orchard. The nodes collect data and curate the behaviour of flies in the field. Olombria aims to work with natural systems to manage and support rather than exploit local ecosystems.

The start-up’s work originated from the RCA’s entry to the 2017 Biodesign Challenge and is led by RCA graduates Louis Alderson-Bythell, Tashia Tucker and Sam Roots, and current student Greg Swan.

Find out more about Olombria at flypollination.com or follow them on Twitter: @flypollination

Update on Olombria. 

SHOW YOUR INNOVATION AT REAP 2018

Participants in the REAP Start-Up Showcase are carefully selected to be some of the most exciting emerging agri-tech. However, if you have a product or service that you would like to exhibit there is an opportunity for a small number of organisations to participate in the Technology Exhibition.

More details about exhibiting at REAP.

Biology Meets Agri-Tech

Agri-TechE Blog
Agri-TechE

The theme of REAP 2017 is “Today’s Knowledge Meets Tomorrow’s Technology,” and biology is at the forefront with our keynote speaker focusing on no-till agriculture. But beyond that, soil microbes, insects and plant extracts could hold the key to some exciting new pesticides, fertilisers and biostimulants.

With the pressure mounting to find novel chemistries and the future of many existing chemical products in question, the solution for future crop management is increasingly seen in biology.

Nature’s arsenal

Biology Meets Agri-TechTomorrow’s technology is already starting to unlock some of the potential of how Nature’s own solutions can help farmers work more closely with the environment.

“Biologicals” in agriculture are usually derived from naturally-occurring processes or organisms, such as fungi, enzymes or insects. Already products are available or in development aiming to harness Nature’s own agro-chemical arsenal. It’s possible to buy mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria to inoculate soils, along with a range of insects to act as natural predators of pests.

Naturally-occurring fungi that control nematodes, or boost uptake of minerals such as phosphate by plant roots and bacteria that control powdery mildew and grey mould are increasingly commercially available or close-to-market.

Strategic use of other living things to bring benefits in agriculture is not a new idea – planting legumes to increase soil nitrogen levels, introducing beneficial insects in glasshouses to increase pollination and inter-cropping are well-established practices. But the new tools of genomic analysis, plant metabolomics and the ability to analyse huge amounts of biological data is allowing a much more forensic insight into how biologically-inspired products can boost business – as well as yields and bring environmental benefits

Internal insecticide 

Harnessing part of a natural process through new technologies is also well-established. The so-called “Bt” trait in some genetically modified varieties of cotton and maize is a copy of a gene from a soil bacterium. This gene carries the genetic instructions for a toxin that is selectively poisonous to the larvae of certain insect species. Introducing a copy of this gene into plants allows them to make their own internal insecticide which is activated when pests attack.

The use of new tools and technologies to learn even more about the natural processes underway in soils, microbes, insects and plants means the future of environmentally-inspired agricultural biologicals is bright. Biopesticides are projected to be worth over $5.0 billion by 2020, and biostimulants are expected to grow at a rate of around 20% year-on-year.

Researchers have pioneered new ways of characterising the interactions of plants with their environment, and with the ability to understand the functional traits of soil-dwelling microbes and insects, the contribution of biology in agriculture is set to become even greater.

REAP 2017

30MHz to show “smart sensing toolkit” at REAP

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30MHz to show smart sensing toolkit at REAP

“There’s this perception that with the Internet of Things everything has to be very lofty and large scale, but there are so many very basic challenges or questions in agriculture that can be solved just by installing a sensor,” says Joanna Madej, Head of Communications at 30MHz. The company will be demonstrating its “smart sensing toolkit” at REAP in November.

The “toolkit” provided by the Netherlands-based company allows the collection of data using a variety of sensors across a large area, whether it’s a greenhouse, field or busy port.

“Consider the toolkit like Lego pieces of a smart sensing solution,” continues Madej. “It includes sensors, an adjustable mesh network, and analytics and alerts in the form of a dashboard that’s accessible from any device.

Joanna Madej, 30MHz
Joanna Madej

“Depending on the metric you want to capture – such as temperature, soil moisture, humidity or wind speed – the sensors will be different, and they are all adjustable. In essence the thing that unifies all our customers is that they have a problem they want to solve that requires monitoring physical space, and we have the sensors and the data capabilities to do that in real-time.

Madej comments that agriculture is the industry that really sees the potential in sensing, and has the strongest case for it: “We have seen just how innovative the agricultural space is in the Netherlands, and we see that same drive for innovation in the UK.

“British farmers are very tech-savvy, but they are looking for solutions that are easy to use and not unnecessarily complicated,” she continues. “Every time we speak to them we see that they are looking for new technologies, new ways to be more sustainable, productive and cost-effective.”

30MHz focuses on customisability, accessibility and scalability, aiming to make it easy for companies of all sizes to capture data from their physical environments and make better decisions with a product that’s out of the box and easy to deploy.

“We want the bottom line to be simplicity, usability and the ability to solve problems straight away,” says Madej. “We don’t want to be over-complicated for the more basic needs, but if you have more complex data and analytic needs the product can grow to accommodate that as well.”

30MHz focuses on customisability, accessibility and scalabilityThroughout its two-and-a-half year history, 30MHz has worked within several industry sectors, including monitoring damage on mooring posts for the port of Amsterdam, and monitoring occupancy and people flow in the Van Gogh Museum.

However, significant work has been done within the agri-food chain, including with retailers, transport, storage and producers and companies such as Bejo Zaden, Syngenta, Pop Vriend Seeds, Rijk Zwaan, Svensson and Jan de Wit & Sons.

“One of our most successful sensors is a pointed temperature sensor that we developed with Dutch commercial pepper farmers Kwekerij Moors,” continues Madej (see more about this project here). “It’s a flexible, contactless temperature sensor that can accommodate the irregular shapes of fruit, vegetables and leaves. We were told by the customer that it was something they needed, that it didn’t exist, so we worked with them to create it.”

The UK’s passion for evolving the agricultural industry is why 30MHz will be exhibiting at REAP. They will be showcasing a variety of sensors alongside their analytics dashboard to demonstrate the real-time monitoring capabilities of their products.

“We are very interested in speaking to more British farmers, to understand their vision, their challenges and the opportunities they see to innovate within their sector. If Dutch agriculture is any indication, smart sensing is a big part of that. Coming to REAP felt like a really good fit – it’s exactly the kind of audience that we would resonate with.”

For more information about REAP, including the technology exhibition, click here.

Visit the 30MHz website at: www.30mhz.com

See more about 30MHz’s projects on YouTube here.

REAP 2017

Bringing inspiration from the corners of the earth

Agri-TechE Blog
Agri-TechE

Bringing inspiration from the corners of the earthThe first step for innovation is to understand the problem. The issues faced by agriculture are common to other markets, so it is reasonable to think that solutions proven to work elsewhere could also be adopted here to create quick wins for the industry.

This month we are looking worldwide for the best ideas and inviting thought-leaders to the REAP conference to share their experiences with our farmers and technologists.

The importance of the Agri-Tech East cluster in stimulating innovation was highlighted in a government report launched this month which stressed the benefit of creating an ecosystem to support early stage businesses and communicate the latest thinking.

Setting up in the UK

We were particularly proud to be invited to the CropWorld conference in Amsterdam to be showcased as a case-study of how to help agri-innovation thrive. The conference was opened by Bayer’s Head of R&D, Adrian Percy, who argued that innovation in the agriculture industry has never been more critical.

We have seen first-hand the benefits that small businesses can be offered by being part of an agri-tech cluster. Two of our members, Arlabion (Latvia) and FarmScan (Australia), have specifically chosen the UK as their strategic HQ for international growth, being keen to partner with the innovative growers, breeders and manufacturers that will help them succeed.

South America is a major global agricultural market, and we are looking forward to welcoming the winning team of the “hackathonAGRO” competition organised by the British Embassy in Montevideo, who offered an all-expenses paid trip to our REAP conference as the prize.

Taking technology global

The global benefits from last year’s REAP are already being realised by one of the Start-Ups we showcased – a representative from the British Deputy High Commission in Hyderabad who joined us for Agri-Tech Week 2015 has since been working with the company to help them access the wider market in India, having spotted the potential for their innovative technology for Indian growers.

This year for the first time at REAP we have technology demonstrations, and we are delighted to be welcoming some US-based early stage companies – our members Mavrx will be joining us, as well as Arable, a spin-out from Princeton University. Arable are combining sensors with meteorological data to improve yield forecasting. Their pilot projects include strawberry farms and vineyards and they are ‘super keen’ to talk to UK producers of salad crops.

Inspiration from different worlds

Our speakers also bring disruptive ideas from other geographies and industries, such as defence and logistics. Keynote speaker Gary Zimmer from the Mid West is a pioneer in biological farming; he has been in such demand that we have managed to shoehorn a number of visits across the region into his tight schedule. At REAP he will be part of panel of scientists and farmers creating a lively debate.

So what of the future? While the UK seeks to establish its new position on the global political stage, we want to continue to capitalise on the reputation, research and resilience of our farmers and innovators. 2017 will see us developing stronger international relationships – seeking to develop strategic relationships with overseas partners and continuing to work with the UK’s Department for International Trade’s Agri-Tech Organisation.

Through our member Austrade we will be building closer links with agri-investors Down Under, as well as exploring the possibilities for overseas visits to key partners in Europe for our members.

Join the revolution

Agri-Tech Week is nearly upon us – a reason for the world to book a ticket to come to the UK, attracted by the welcoming, highly productive and research-intensive gateway of the east of England.

We hope to see you at some, if not all, of the Week’s activities – see you on the other side!

 

REAP 2016

Agri-Tech Week 2016