UK ‘on edge of agricultural revolution’

Belinda Clarke and Mark Bowyer about to hold a workshop at the Innovation for Agriculture East Confe

Belinda Clarke and Mark Bowyer about to hold a workshop at the Innovation for Agriculture East Conference at Trinity Park. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

The UK is on the edge of another agricultural revolution, an expert has claimed.

Speaking at the Suffolk Agricultural Association’s (SAA) annual conference on Tuesday, Mark Bowyer, head of farming at the Produce World Group, said advances would come through new technology, innovation and urged the sector to work together on new farming innovation and shared knowledge to help make the UK a global leader.

shared knowledge within the sector, he said.

At a workshop during the conference, Mark explained how the Produce World Group, which is based in Peterborough, but operates throughout East Anglia, is gearing up for this new agricultural revolution through precision farming with new technologies to improve farming best practice. These include a broccoli forecasting model to estimate the timings and yield of broccoli crops, a project to promote pest-free organic brassicas, assessment of fertilizer requirements and projects looking at irrigation.

The group has also developed a knowledge base of information and data about soil types and properties of the land farmed by Produce World and its growers. The Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, called Soil-for-Life, in collaboration with Cranfield University, provides data and information to help decision making and drive innovation in soil management.

Mr Bowyer said: “The workshop was a fantastic opportunity to discuss how the sector can get involved in new innovation and how farmers can test and evaluate new technology on their fields. We work closely with independent growers in the East of England so are always keen to share best practice and learn from their experiences, while looking at how the latest technologies can work for them and their land. Produce World Group is already showing what can be achieved through new technology and innovation.”

In June 2013, Government pledged to invest £160million in the agri-tech sector, with the strategy setting out how the Government, science researchers and the food and farming sector will build on the strengths of the UK agricultural technologies sector. £70m of this funding, known as the Agri-Tech Catalyst, is available for projects that aim to improve the translation of research into practice through support at different stages of development. The remaining £90m is proposed for Centres for Agricultural Innovation that aim to increase support to develop new technologies in the sector. Through Agri-Tech Catalyst funding support, Produce World and Cranfield University will be building on the success of the Soil-for-Life project, with the aim of developing a commercial prospect for the industry. The next stage of the project, known as Soil-for-life Beta, will test and analyse the data collected using different approaches, while expanding further research to a core group of Produce World Group grower beta testers.