AHDB and Agri-Tech East join forces to create new role to help farmers innovate

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, with Prof Ian Crute, former chief scientist at AHDB,

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, with Prof Ian Crute, former chief scientist at AHDB, and the CropQuant robot from the Earlham Institute, which was on display in the exhibition area. Picture: MIKE THORNTON/STILLVISION PHOTOGRAPHY/AGRI-TECH EAST - Credit: Mike Thornton/StillVision Photographer/Agri-Tech East

A new role is being created to encourage farmers to innovate, it was announced this week.

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, with Prof Ian Crute, former chief scientist at AHDB,

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, with Prof Ian Crute, former chief scientist at AHDB, and the CropQuant robot from the Earlham Institute, which was on display in the exhibition area. Picture: MIKE THORNTON/STILLVISION PHOTOGRAPHY/AGRI-TECH EAST - Credit: Mike Thornton/StillVision Photographer/Agri-Tech East

Agri-Tech East and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB ) have teamed up to create a knowledge and innovation facilitator.

The initiative was announced at Agri-Tech East’s REAP conference for the agri-tech sector, held at the Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre in Cambridge on Tuesday, November 7.

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, said by working with farm levy payers’ group the AHDB, they had been able to fund the project manager role to devise and deliver innovations by gaining access to the wealth of expertise within AHDB and making it more readily available.

“We need to move beyond focusing on crop yield as the measure of success and look at the bigger picture to make the industry productive, profitable and sustainable. This can be achieved by facilitating well-designed real world projects between our members,” she said.

The joint position is part of a wider AHDB objective to create closer links with industry.

AHDB board member Professor Ian Crute told delegates that the post-war period, when different groups had worked together, led to advancements in the industry, but that this had fallen away over time.

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“Past experience informs us that a policy environment in agriculture encouraging common purpose, close connectivity and regular interaction between researchers, practitioners and their advisers leads to the emergence of successful innovations that are adopted widely and swiftly,” he said. “This was certainly the case in the UK in the four decades after the Second World War. However this close alignment between the aims of research institutions and the priorities of agricultural industries no longer seems so evident.

“One reason for this was a downturn in the value of agricultural products, which led in turn to disinvestment in agriculture-relevant science.”

Argentinian María Beatriz Giraudo, winner of the Kleckner Prize Global Farming Prize 2016, described how the farming industry had taken a lead through its investment in agricultural research, with a partnership between farmers and academics enabling rapid uptake of latest findings.