Agri-tech projects aim to support farmers
13th June 2022
The challenges farmers face on a daily basis are being tackled through a range of game changing agri-tech projects and innovations.
This work is being led by agri-tech innovation centre, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), with the help of SMEs, academics, entrepreneurs, growers and government.
“Farmers face a diverse range of problems simply through conducting their ‘day jobs’, and that’s before much broader issues such as climate change and global supply chain volatility are taken into account,” said head of marketing and communications for CHAP, Janine Heath.
“One of CHAP’s aims is to accelerate the innovation required to help farmers overcome such challenges, whether that’s relatively small-scale, or by helping them to contribute to a bigger picture. One way we do this is through driving collaborative projects.”
Palm-sized crop disease detection
One example of such projects is the development of the Fotenix Echo innovative handheld imaging device.
This palm-sized equipment uses light across and beyond the visible spectrum, to enable the identification of plant stress. The project involved trial and evaluation work by CHAP with support from Rothamsted Research, and was thanks to an Innovate UK EDGE grant scheme.
The funding supported the delivery of two trials, with results indicating that Echo can successfully identify the presence of disease in wheat, and is ready for refinement ahead of launch into the market for use by breeders, agronomists and farmers.
Innovation technical lead at CHAP, Dr Alex McCormack, said: “Accelerating and catalysing innovation in this way is key to our mission as an agri-tech centre, so assisting in projects like this is really exciting, for not only for us but also the arable industry as a whole.
“The technology is out there now, but it’s just identifying it and making it accessible to those who need it to solve a problem, in this case, breeders, farmers and growers.”
Improving insect monitoring through pheromone innovation
CHAP is also working with its membership community to address pest problems such as cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB).
Recent work has taken place to help International Pheromone Systems (IPS) investigate the behaviour of CSFB, to explore the market potential of new pheromone lures.
Results of the project, also funded by the Innovate UK EDGE grant scheme, have helped to focus future avenues for research, mainly the impact of the host environment plus pest population density on the behaviour of the beetle.
Dr Sam Jones, technical manager for IPS, said: “While there has been much interest in this pest during the past five years, a pheromone has yet to be formally identified and this is the logical first step in the process of developing a commercial lure for this important pest.”
An alternative protein supply chain
Aside from project collaborations, CHAP is addressing real-life agricultural issues through knowledge sharing and facilitation.
A recent online workshop took place to discuss current opportunities to grow and develop the UK’s alternative protein supply chain.
The aim was to understand the complexities of the alternative protein sector, and to scope out potential areas for cross-industry collaboration to address current challenges. Themes discussed included ingredient manufacturing and processing facilities, CEA protein crops, and legumes and pulses diversification.
Among those in attendance were breeders, manufacturers, researchers and growers. Innovation sector lead, Dr Réka Haraszi led the workshop. She said: “We were pleased to see the beginnings of new collaborations during the workshop, which is an important element of CHAP’s work – building new networks between stakeholders.
“Excitingly, ideas were also sparked for potential future projects, which will be key in delivering solutions to the challenges being experienced in the sector.”
Driving the future