Tucked away in the detail of the recent Budget was a fantastic piece of news for the agricultural food sector: “The government will invest £11.8 million in a new centre for agricultural informatics and sustainable metrics.” The consortium comprising Rothamsted Research, the University of Reading, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany and Scotland’s Rural College, will now be establishing this centre. John Crawford, scientific director at Rothamsted, said: “This is only the start of the “journey” for linking together a network of excellence in agri-environmental data science to improve agricultural productivity.”
In addition, over 70 businesses and universities from across the UK will share £16 million from government and industry to develop their innovative business ideas and boost UK agriculture. The 25 projects, worth £16 million with £9.8 million from government and £6.2 million from industry, form the third round of funding to be distributed through the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst which was announced as part of the UK industrial strategy for agricultural technologies. As an example of this work, the University of Lincoln and R Fountain and Son Ltd are developing 3D camera technology to identify when broccoli is ready for harvesting. This will be a key step towards the development of a fully automatic robotic system for broccoli which will significantly reduce production costs.