AFBI promotes ‘Agri-Precision’ initiatives

Some of the attendees taking part in the 'Agri-precision workshop' were Tom McKeown (Moy Park), �Steven Morrison and Elizabeth Magowan (AFBI), John Bustard (ECIT/QUB), Elaine Groom �(NI H2020 contact point), John Gilliland (Devenish) and Sinclair Mayne (AFBI).

Some of the attendees taking part in the 'Agri-precision workshop' were Tom McKeown (Moy Park), �Steven Morrison and Elizabeth Magowan (AFBI), John Bustard (ECIT/QUB), Elaine Groom �(NI H2020 contact point), John Gilliland (Devenish) and Sinclair Mayne (AFBI).

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Scientists at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough recently organised a highly successful scoping workshop in the area of ‘Precision Technology’.

The AgriFood Strategy report ‘Going for Growth’ sets out ambitious targets for growth of the local agri-food sector based on the production and processing systems being internationally competitive.

On the other hand, Northern Ireland has an extremely active, local ICT (Information & Communications Technology) sector at the forefront of many developing technologies. With ICT continuously delivering new capabilities, AFBI recognises that this provides new opportunities for all parts of the local agri-food chain.

On this basis, AFBI scientists organised an initial workshop to explore the scope to develop smarter practices through creating a vanguard of those interested in merging scientific innovations with ICT advances.

To introduce the topic Dr John Gilliland, Director of Agriculture, Devenish Nutrition Limited, delivered a presentation on the ‘Agri –Perspective’.

He noted: “The development and adoption of precision technology within the Agri-food sector has the potential to deliver the next ‘Green revolution’ through uplifting and reducing variation in productivity in a sustainable manner. I congratulate AFBI for taking and driving the initiative to bring together our local Agri-Food and ICT sectors to develop successful collaborations for NI PLC.”

Stephen Wray, Commercial Director, Institute of Electronics, Communication and Information Technology, ECIT/QUB, followed by outlining the ‘ICT-perspective’.

He said: “With the rapid advancing pervasive nature of technology there is tremendous scope to utilise sensors, analytics and ubiquitous communications to drive new value applications and solutions into domain specific areas – it is only right that two of Northern Irelands strongest sectors (ICT and Agri-food) should come together to explore this opportunity to drive Innovation and aggregate and consolidate our regional expertise to solve some of the global issues in the agri-food industry.”

Dr Elaine Groom, Horizon 2020 NI Contact Point Agri-Food, outlined funding opportunities for research and innovation in the area of ‘agri-food precision technology’.

More than 30 participants then engaged in lively discussions (facilitated by AFBI) on how technologies including automated sensors, robotics, predictive analytics and genomics could be used to improve the competitiveness of Northern Ireland agriculture and also produce new exportable solutions.

Going forward, AFBI endeavours to invigorate and promote change by developing strong collaborations between its scientists, ICT and digital innovators and industry leaders. These collaborations offer an opportunity for local ICT companies to diversify into the agri-food sector and develop smarter practices that may have worldwide application.

This will also enable the local agri-Sector to embrace technology adoption and the benefits it can bring. AFBI plans to play a key role in bridging the gap between ICT and Agri-Food by bringing together a diversity of agri-food, animal health and environmental scientists from across its research sites and utilizing its instrumented research farm facilities at AFBI Hillsborough.

Further meetings are planned in the future and anyone wishing to be involved in future developments and events should register their interest with AFBI by contacting AFBI Corporate Communications, Email: corporate.comms@afbini.gov.uk |Tel: +44 (0) 28 9025 5636.

To learn more about European funding opportunities for agri-food related initiatives through Horizon 2020 please contact Dr Elaine Groom (44 (0) 28 9025 5078 |Mobile: +44 (0)7769 188940 | elaine.groom@afbini.gov.uk).