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£1m+ approved for precision agriculture research

Posted 29 August 2014

More than £1m of funding has been approved for researchers at Harper Adams University to investigate ways to streamline agricultural processes and make farming more efficient.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) together with Defra, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Scottish Government are investing up to £13m in projects that will develop engineering solutions for the agri-food supply chain.

Bids were welcomed that use engineering science to advance the sustainable intensification of primary agriculture and raise product quality and process efficiency in food manufacturing.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Mills, said: “We are delighted to have secured such a substantial amount of funding which will allow us to fully utilise the new facilities housed in our Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre.

“For several years we have been committed to raising the profile of precision farming and robotics, this funding will support that work and enable us to conduct further research into the area.”

Harper Adams made successful bids for funding, including one which is working in partnership with the Big Bale Company (South) Ltd and the Big Bale Transtacker to invest in the development of a bale handling and management tool to work in line with Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) practices.

Initial research suggests that this concept is probably the first system in the world that will allow farmers to economically remove straw bales from CTF managed fields.

Harper Adams will also be working with Syngenta, the University of Manchester and G’s Fresh to devise alternative forms of weed control to allow growers to grow crops profitably. The planned system will integrate sensors for real-time crop and weed detection, with targeted micro-droplet application of herbicides or use of low-power lasers.

Also,  Harper Adams will be working alongside IceRobotics Ltd, Dairy Crest and Kingshay on a project termed DASIE – Dairy Animal Sensor Integrated Engineering.

The project aims to drive the innovative application of sensors to improve dairy cow health and welfare, helping farmers to take swift action to address health problems before they become serious and more costly.

Professor Mills added: “In a time when farmers are being asked to produce more food from less land and inputs, research that will help to identify efficiency savings is crucial.

“We believe that this funding will support research that will make a real difference to farmers and growers, and support our industry in feeding our ever growing population.”

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