The collaboration between the UK and China around Agri-Tech innovation has reached a milestone as the first crop to be grown as part of the SmartFarm Project has been harvested.
The aim of Innovate UK’s SmartFarm concept is to develop a holistic approach to the food supply chain for a more efficient and sustainable approach to farming and food production. Beginning with the Agri-EPI-led pilot ‘SmartFarm 1.0’ in China, the plan is to create a transferable model for utilising a range of technology to gather data on inputs and outputs, in order to measure and reduce variation and increase productivity at all levels of the supply chain.
Agri-EPI Centre has been working closely with a variety of Chinese and UK partners to deliver SmartFarm 1.0.
In China, the primary partners are NERCITA, the National Engineering Research Centre for Information Technology in Agriculture – host of the main elements of the SmartFarm 1.0 – and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technologies China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC) which oversees the Chinese delivery partners.
In the UK, the project is funded by Innovate UK. Partner companies Soil Essentials and RDS Technologies have contributed technology and expertise to the project. As well as academic partners from Strathclyde University and James Hutton Institute. Their involvement has helped to create a platform for UK Agri-tech companies to become involved in Chinese markets.
The initial focus of SmartFarm 1.0 has been technology associated with arable crops to create a better understanding of productivity from the land resource. Agri-EPI’s Chief Technical Officer Dr Shamal Mohammed and Project Manager Freddie Reed, along with colleagues from RDS, will be in China to see the winter wheat crop harvested, yield mapped, and other datasets are collected at the NERCITA Field Station Xaiotangshan on June 10.
They are looking forward to discussing the project with NERCITA colleagues and representatives from the Chinese government during a formal reception.
Dr Shamal Mohammed said: “Our collective aim has been to develop a smart farming concept using various layer of data layers with a holistic approach to understand current levels of productivity and provide the insight to deliver improvements in term of food production and environmental sustainability. We are very grateful to our Chinese partners for their collaboration and we are looking forward to build a long-term partnership to advance Agri-Tech sector in both countries. We are also grateful for funding and support from Innovate UK.”
Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres said: “I am pleased that this collaboration between the UK and China is under way as part of the UK China Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge.
“It is the output of a bold vision inspired by an MoU signed between CRTDC and Innovate UK in November 2016 and has taken of a lot of hard work with colleagues from CRTDC and NERCITA and the UK’s Agri-EPI Centre to deliver. I am sure it will help to deliver positive benefits to the Chinese people as we work together to solve some of the worldwide major challenges facing agriculture.”
Like the UK, China has a strong focus on increasing agricultural efficiency, productivity and environmental standards. Its 13th 5-year plan on Science and Innovation, adopted in 2016, positions Agri-Tech at the heart of the programme, with a significant £1.5 billion of government investment in this area between 2016 and 2021.
Following on from this, Innovate UK and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technologies China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2016, in which both parties agreed to explore mutual collaboration.
SmartFarm is a key component of the Agri-Tech Flagship challenge, one of the major deliverables under the UK-China Science Technology and Innovation Strategy signed last December in London.