05 December 2018
New multi-million pound hub will test and share farming technology
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 in the Midlands.
Agri-EPI Centre has developed the £4.4 million research & development facility in close partnership with Harper Adams University, with investment from Innovate UK.
Located on the University’s campus in Shropshire, the hub will bring together researchers, technology and engineering companies and food businesses, from farmers right through to retailers. The new hub offers a 500m2 workshop space equipped with tools, rapid prototyping equipment and fabrication facilities, along with office space for rent.
A priority for the new hub is to encourage farmer uptake of innovative technologies to increase the overall benefits to UK agriculture. 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. Such technologies are being researched by Harper Adams and others in conjunction with industry partners, to be tested further through the Agri-EPI Centre network.
The hub was officially opened by Sam Gyimah MP, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation. He said: “From picking soft fruits using robots, to treating crops using lasers and avoiding harmful pesticides, the innovations being considered by 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 investor, environmentalists and scientists. We need to make sure these skills keep pace with the growth of new technologies which is why we have invested £90 million 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 and the rest of the food supply chain while Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Llewellyn, said there are “considerable opportunities” to grow the agri-technology sector.
Ian Cox, Innovate UK Innovation Lead for the 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.”
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.
Harper Adams is the UK’s largest provider of specialist higher education and research for the agri-food and rural industries. It delivers the country’s only undergraduate degrees in agricultural engineering.
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government, that funds business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment.