The agricultural industry needs a facility where research can be carried out in a secure and risk-free setting, where lessons will be learned and applied across the sector.
Professor Richard Godwin, Chairman of the Douglas Bomford Trust
The National Centre for Precision Farming is conducting state of the art research and collaborating in industrial projects that will enable farmers around the world to sustainably improve yields and profits whilst optimising their use of resources. As part of this work, we bring together globally the farming industry, business, research, and academic organisations in joint ventures. We also promote and support the development and commercialisation of precision farming technologies, provide educational opportunities and are working to minimise the environmental impact farmers have on the world.
Creating vehicles and systems that provide real-world benefits to users, adding value and improving outputs.
The harvesting of strawberries is a very labour intensive process, each strawberry is picked by hand and the quality inspected prior to being placed into a punnet. A typical soft fruit farm can employ more than 250 people during harvest with some farms having more than 700 people. This makes the strawberry industry very susceptible to increases in minimum wage, as well as issues with the supply of labour. The AUTOPIC project has created a working prototype autonomous harvest unit capable of picking strawberries to the same standard or better than human operatives.
Hands Free Hectare
Automated machines growing the first arable crop remotely, without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground. Read more here.
Twitter - @FreeHectare
VTOL Crop Sprayer
To develop a precision crop-spraying drone system initially targeted at the UK market, after securing HSE and CAA compliance, but with global market reach and market opportunity. The crop-spraying drone will be based around VTOL Technologies VTOL Flying Wing patented drone platform whose unique Flying Wing feature will provide the ‘tank’ for the chemical containment, delivering crop-spraying systems that are perfectly adapted to the different UK geographic constraints and UK agriculture. Such a system, would substantially reduce precision crop-spraying costs and improve crop-spray quality.
Mechatronics Systems and Sensor Technology
Big Bale Transtacker
Working in partnership with Big Bale Company (South) Ltd and the Big Bale Transtacker, the consortium aims to invest in the research and development of a bale handling and logistical management tool that will work in line with Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) practices.
Weed control is becoming increasingly difficult due to herbicide resistant weeds and restriction of herbicides due to higher regulatory demands. In cereals, herbicide resistant Blackgrass is a severe problem with no good solution and weed control in minor crops, such as vegetables, is now extremely problematic as older herbicides have been de-registered. The planned system integrates sensors for real-time crop and weed detection, with targeted micro-droplet application of non-selective herbicides or use of low-power lasers, to create a new and sustainable weed eradication technique.
Producing galantamine from galanthamine extracted from plants is more cost effective than most other methods of production, but supplies are limited. Daffodils are an economically feasible plant source for cultivation in the UK, and growing daffodils in upland areas triggers a 50% higher yield of galanthamine. This project will deliver a new approach for producing galanthamine based on integrating daffodil growing into existing upland pasture. The project will develop the required machinery, quantify the yield of galanthamine achievable, and assess the impact on sheep performance of incorporating daffodil production into grazed pastures. Read more here.
Big Data/Data Analytics/Internet of Things
Farm and Rural Mixed Energy from Renewable Sources (FARMERS)
Whereas most work in optimising energy systems has taken place in urban areas, FARMERS looks at the rural and agricultural environment which is often characterised by fragile electricity distribution networks, no gas grid and a reliance on oil based fuels for energy and heat but it is also ideal for medium scale renewable generation some of which is highly intermittent. FARMERS will examine the feasibility of optimising models for management of all kinds of renewable generation, energy storage and the asymmetric loads that farming processes or electric vehicles may place on fragile rural distribution networks and examine how the use of heating oil and liquefied gas by farms and rural communities may be displaced. Read more here.