Royal Norfolk Show showcases progress in growing technologies for fresh produce sector

Innovation Hub to feature latest work on research priorities set out by NFU.

Farming: research topics include building resilience in farm businesses and developing labour-saving technology - image: Marcel Campi
Farming: research topics include building resilience in farm businesses and developing labour-saving technology - image: Marcel Campi

The Royal Norfolk Show later this month will include an "Innovation Hub" showcasing several cutting-edge farming technologies relevant to fresh produce.

It will show how East of England companies are taking forward research priorities highlighted in the NFU’s Feeding the Future review — harnessing big data and digital technologies, balancing environmental protection with agricultural productivity, building resilience in farm businesses, developing labour-saving technologies and furthering farming’s contribution to health and well-being.

Non-profit organisation Agrimetrics, the first of four centres to be established under the Government’s Agritech Strategy and based at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, will use an interactive demonstration to show how open data integration, modelling and analysis can enable farmers to benchmark performance.

Berkshire-based SOYL will show how a smartphone app can help farmers understand and manage variability in a farm’s topography, soil type and nutrition levels, manage variable rate applications, improve soil structure, map soil nutrients and identify variations in phosphorus, potassium and magnesium levels.

Norfolk-based Crop Angel specialises in delivering agricultural services using UAVs or "drones". The firm aims to be one of the first in the UK to offer drone-mounted crop spraying, particularly on sensitive sites unsuited to application by machine or knapsack. Its website notes: "Existing legislation does not permit the use of sprayer drones in UK airspace without special permission. We are working to be the first to attain this status."

The University of Essex will use an interactive thermograph to explain new understanding of how the length of the growing season affects crop yield. Cambridge crop research station NIAB will explain how growers’ by-products such as fruit skins and seeds, hitherto regarded as waste, can be turned into new types of protein for animal feed and even ingredients for cosmetics.

The University of East Anglia will use a 3D model to demonstrate how changes in farming can reduce loss of nutrients into watercourses while maintaining farm profitability, based on a study of Norfolk’s river Wensum.

Partnership

The show, at the Norfolk Showground in Norwich on 28-29 June, is sponsored by the British Beet Research Organisation and enabled by a partnership between the Agri-Tech East consortium and the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA). "The agri-food industry in the UK is underpinned by world-class science but the connection is often not clear," says RNAA director Mark Nicholas. "With the Innovation Hub we are looking to show key areas where progress is being made in the areas defined by farmers as priorities."

Agri-Tech East director Dr Belinda Clarke adds: "Agri-food is the last major sector to be ‘digitised’ and this represents a major opportunity for companies not traditionally associated with farming. Norfolk has always led innovation in farming practice and the show provides an ideal opportunity to meet people open to new ideas and technologies."


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