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Agri-Tech East report calls for new thinking to fix UK’s ‘broken’ farming model

PUBLISHED: 01:00 19 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:34 20 September 2017

A diagram of Agri-Tech East's vision for the farming sector. Picture: AGRI-TECH EAST

A diagram of Agri-Tech East's vision for the farming sector. Picture: AGRI-TECH EAST

Agri-Tech East

An East Anglian organisation promoting advances in farm technology and thinking has launched a report setting out a vision to transform the UK’s ‘broken’ farming model.

Agri-Tech East at the House of Lords to present its strategy for farming technology. From left,  George Freeman MP, Dr Belinda Clarke (director of Agri-Tech East), Lord Sainsbury of Turville, John Shropshire (a director at G’s Growers and speaker at the event). Picture: AGRI-TECH EASTAgri-Tech East at the House of Lords to present its strategy for farming technology. From left, George Freeman MP, Dr Belinda Clarke (director of Agri-Tech East), Lord Sainsbury of Turville, John Shropshire (a director at G’s Growers and speaker at the event). Picture: AGRI-TECH EAST

Agri-Tech East officially unveils its study, entitled From Grass Roots to Blue Skies: a vision for agri-tech, at the House of Lords on Tuesday, September 19.

“That the current farming model is broken is widely accepted by farmers and scientists,” it said.

The membership group, which brings together farmers with scientists, technologists and investors to foster fresh thinking and new expertise to the challenges of production and land management, has stimulated a number of initiatives in the last three years.

Projects include improving forecasting of demand for lettuces to reduce waste and release resources for alternative crops, the development of a digital platform that makes data from multiple sources, including international markets, accessible to farmers, and alternative methods for storage of potatoes that overcomes the withdrawal of current treatments.

Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East. Picture: AGRI-TECH EASTDr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East. Picture: AGRI-TECH EAST

Director Dr Belinda Clarke said innovation was needed to solve the challenges farming faced.

“UK farm output has stagnated for 30 years as technology has allowed us to do more with fewer people. Now there is a huge opportunity to look at production and land management from a different perspective and introduce new business models and technologies that will improve productivity in a sustainable way.”

Salad producers G’s Growers boss John Shropshire said the yield and quality of crops varied greatly between UK farms, and even within an individual fields.

“The demand for iceberg lettuce is 24/7 and we overgrow by 30% to make sure we have enough. Agri-Tech East introduced us to an ecologist at Microsoft to look at new ways to solve the problem. Sophisticated monitoring technology has allowed us to identify key growth stages in the lettuce and also to collate data on weather and microclimate.”

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