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Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub launched at Harper Adams

Posted 30 November 2018

"Agri-EPI seeks to unlock exciting opportunities for the development and testing of new ideas and technologies of potential benefit to farmers as well as the rest of the food supply chain"

L-R Lee Williams (Hub Manager),  Ian Cox (Innovate UK Innovation Lead for Agri-Tech Centres), Dave Ross (Agri-EPI Centre CEO), Minister Sam Gyimah, Rory Wallace (BEIS) and Willie Thomson, Agri-EPI Centre Chairman.

L-R Lee Williams (Hub Manager), Ian Cox (Innovate UK Innovation Lead for Agri-Tech Centres), Dave Ross (Agri-EPI Centre CEO), Minister Sam Gyimah, Rory Wallace (BEIS) and Willie Thomson, Agri-EPI Centre Chairman.

A multi-million pound hub for the development, testing and sharing of technologies to boost productivity in farming and the food supply chain has opened at Harper Adams University following Innovate UK investment.

Agri-EPI Centre has developed the £4.4 million research & development facility in close partnership the University. 

Located on the Harper Adams campus, the hub will bring together researchers, tech/engineering companies and food businesses, from farmers right through to retailers.

A priority for the new hub is to encourage farmer uptake of innovative technologies to increase the overall benefits to UK farming.  Experts will explore how robotics, lasers, sensors and satellite technology may benefit farmers, such as robots which can pick soft fruit or lasers which can target individual weeds in a field without pesticides or damage to the crop.  These are technologies being researched by Harper Adams in conjunction with industry partners, which can be tested further through the Agri-EPI Centre network.

The new hub pursues Innovate UK’s own ambition to develop and incubate new high tech start-up business in a rapidly growing market (compound growth of over 15% pa). It is creating a high tech asset that has already secured one high value tenant – TAFE Tractors from India.

The hub was officially opened on November 29 by Sam Gyimah MP, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, who said:

“From picking soft fruits using robots, to treating crops using lasers and avoiding harmful pesticides, the innovations being considered by the Agri Epi Centre will revolutionise farming as we know it and make it more profitable than ever before.

“Our agricultural sector is the biggest industrial sector in the UK and our farmers are multi-skilled – they are investors, environmentalists and scientists. We need to make sure these skills keep pace with the growth of new technologies which is why we have invested £90m through our modern Industrial Strategy to put the UK at the forefront of these innovations and boost productivity.”

Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive Dave Ross said: “By bringing together experts spanning different disciplines and sectors, Agri-EPI seeks to unlock exciting opportunities for the development and testing of new ideas and technologies of potential benefit to farmers as well as the rest of the food supply chain. Our new Midlands hub is one of four ground-breaking facilities we will be running across the UK to really push forward new thinking and technologies that can boost the productivity, sustainability and profitability of the agri-food industry.”

Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Llewellyn, said: “There are considerable opportunities to grow the agri-technology sector through the work of the Agri-EPI Centre and the facilities being formally opened today.  The Government has recognised the importance of this new sector by designating nearby Telford as a High Potential Opportunity area for inward investment in agri-technologies, and our Local Authority and the Marches LEP have identified agri-tech as a strategic priority, based on our activities and those of the Agri-EPI network.

Ian Cox, Innovate UK innovation lead for Agri-Tech Centres said:  “Ultimately, this is about the successful transfer of new technologies, and the skills for their use, into farming practice to improve productivity, profitability and environmental performance in food production.  Working with the Agri-EPI Centre team we are committed to achieving these objectives.”

The new hub offers a 500m2 workshop space equipped with tools, rapid prototyping equipment and fabrication facilities, along with office space for rent. In addition, the state-of-the-art Midlands Dairy Research Centre, developed by Agri-EPI in partnership with Harper-Adams, and managed by Harper Adams, will focus on the use of next generation dairy technology to understand dairy cow behaviour and welfare. Its 50-cow robotic milking shed was designed specifically for trial work, complementing Harper Adams’ 380-strong commercial dairy herd.

Agri-EPI is also collaborating closely with the Harper Adams Hands Free Hectare project team, looking at increasing automation and the integration of 5G technology in field operations.

About Agri-EPI Centre
Agri-EPI Centre is accelerating the adoption of precision agriculture and engineering technologies to boost productivity across the whole agri-food chain. It does this by exploring how to optimise performance of the highly complex agricultural production and processing systems. This includes considering key drivers of profitability and sustainability, such as livestock and plant growth rates, nutrient efficiency, product quality, and health and welfare. The Centre provides world-class R&D facilities, connects academia and industry and progresses next generation technologies such as sensing, imaging and robotics to create a new understanding of production efficiency. www.agri-epicentre.com

Agri-EPI Centre is one of the four Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation, a unique collaboration between UK Government, academia and industry to drive greater efficiency, resilience and wealth across the agri-food sector. A £90 million investment from the UK’s strategic innovation agency, Innovate UK, is enabling the four centres to harness leading UK research and expertise as a well as build new infrastructure and innovation. www.agritechcentres.com

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