Sunday, October 22, 2017

Agri-tech approach helps underpin farm profits

October 3, 2017 by  
Filed under News & Business

George Freeman MP, Belinda Clarke, Lord Sainsbury, John Shropshire

Farmers are embracing sophisticated technology from other industries to improve profit margins despite cost pressures, says a report.

In just three years, Agri-Tech East has stimulated a number of initiatives that are helping to underpin a more profitable industry, says the document, which was launched at the House of Lords on 19 September.

Agri-Tech East is an independent membership organisation that brings together farmers with scientists, technologists and investors to bring fresh thinking and new expertise to the challenges of production and land management.

Results have included improving forecasting of demand for lettuces to reduce waste and release resources for alternative crops; and alternative storage methods of potatoes that overcome the withdrawal of current chemical treatments.

Belinda Clarke, Agri-Tech East director said: “We are concentrating on what works well, perhaps in other industry sectors or geographies, and seeing how it can be applied by some of the UK’s most skilled farmers.”

Dr Clarke added: “Our approach is to put the person with an intractable problem in contact with people that might have solutions. The key is to help all parties frame their challenges in a way that the others can appreciate.”

This grass roots approach has been welcomed by John Shropshire, director of G’s Growers, one of the largest producers of salad and vegetable crops in Europe, which is based at Soham,  Cambridgeshire.

“Across the UK, the yield and quality of crops varies greatly between farms, but even within an individual field or crop there is quite a lot of scope to improve efficiency,” he said. “New technologies will enable us to do that.”

G’s Growers over-produced iceberg lettuce by 30% to meet round-the-clock demand, said Mr Shrophsire. Agri-Tech East had introduced the company to an ecologist at Microsoft to look at new ways to solve the problem of so much waste, he added.

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