George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Farming,Food and the Marine Environment and George Freeman MP, Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State for Life Sciences, have officially launched Agrimetrics, theworlds first Big Data Centre of Excellence for the whole food system.
Agrimetrics founding partners, RothamstedResearch, the University of Reading, NIAB and Scotlands Rural College(SRUC), hosted the launch of the first Centre for Agricultural Innovationcreated by the UK government through Innovate UK under the UK Strategy forAgricultural Technologies.
Agrimetrics will support a revolution in the use ofbig data science in the agri-food industry and contribute to a highlyintelligent, productive, efficient, resilient and sustainable system.
Professor John Crawford, interim Chief ExecutiveOfficer (CEO) of Agrimetrics, commented: We are delighted to have been awarded11.8m from UK Government, through Innovate UK and the Agri-tech Strategy, forthe establishment of the Centre, which has been designed in consultation withmore than 50 organisations from industry and academia and now has in excess of190 companies engaged.”
The Centre, which will work with all business anduniversities, will engage with partners throughout the food system to enabledetailed and collective understanding of the needs of farmers, foodmanufacturers, food retailers, consumers and the environment through the use ofbig data and analytical tools. This high-value collective information, willallow the identification of opportunities for innovation projects among thepartners.
Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: Weare investing in the use of data in agriculture to transform the way crops andlivestock are grown and bred. Using data we can identify new genetic traits,spray only crops with disease, and use less water and energy for modern lowerinput farming. The expertise were supporting at Agrimetrics will position theUK a world leader in this fast emerging field and improve agriculturalsustainability and productivity.
At the core of Agrimetrics is a big data scienceplatform. The platform will include all of the necessary software tools thatmake possible the integration of data according to users needs. Datasets fromaround the world will be used for this purpose. By working with and up-skillingthe industry on data and data analyses, Agrimetrics will be helping to de-riskthe investment required by the supply-chain.
Farming Minister George Eustice said: “Britishfarmers are increasingly making use of data to help them manage and grow theirbusiness, from predicting weather trends, to assessing soil qualities and usingthe very best feed types. This new technology has contributed to efficiencygains and will help us drive up the value of our food and farming industry,already worth 100 billion to our economy.This new centre, funded as part ofthe government’s Agri-Tech Strategy, provides even greater opportunities toutilise this valuable resource. Taking ideas from the laboratory to the farmand improving productivity of farming is all part of our ambitious long-termvision for the future of farming.”
Professor Richard Tiffin, Chief Scientific Officerof Agrimetrics, said: The food and farming industries face unprecedentedchallenges. For example, farmers throughout the world have to make decisionsfor effective management of costs, ensuring returns and safeguarding thesustainable use of land. These decisions are taken in an uncertain economicenvironment whilst dealing with inherently difficult to predict conditions e.g.weather due to climate change. Agrimetrics will enable the gathering,processing and availability of big data in a way that will support decisionmaking processes for the realisation of new opportunities and better use ofscarce resources.”
Ian Meikle, Head of Agriculture and Food, at InnovateUK, the UKs innovation agency, said: Using Big Data will give theagricultural sector the evidence-based edge. The insights from this can driveproductivity and growth in the sector, benefitting the economy andconsumers.”
Modern technology is flooding the food and farmingworld with data. The key challenge is to fairly share and efficiently processit into information farmers can use to improve the quality and quantity oftheir outputs in sustainable ways that benefit both themselves and society.SRUC is delighted to support Agrimetrics in this endeavour, which is in linewith SRUCs reputation as a knowledge exchange organisation, added ProfessorAlistair Stott, Head of Future Farming Systems Group at SRUC and member of theAgrimetrics executive team.
The development of Agrimetrics will supportinnovation in agricultural research and its translation to improve theproductivity, efficiency and sustainability of UK agri-food production systems.The integration of large datasets at this unprecedented scale will bringtogether resources from a diversity of areas including crop and animalbreeding, agronomy and farming systems. This will enable opportunities for theUK food sector to lead in and benefit from the new revolution in agricultureinformatics, said Professor Mario Caccamo, Head of Crop Bioinformatics at NIABand member of the Agrimetrics executive team.