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H2O-ganics - agritech

New SW event showcases agri-tech benefits

Agri-tech is a cornerstone of efficient, sustainable food production – and a new conference in South West England promises to lead the way by showcasing the latest opportunities and development.

The region is an agri-tech powerhouse, with 14 universities offering a range of research specialisms and collaborating with industry to develop spin-off companies.

“Following the G7 summit in Cornwall there has been a lot of discussion around the wealth of talent we have in the area,” explains Joanna Rufus, chair of South West Agri-tech. “We have over 200 small to medium sized agri-tech companies and 64 business support organisations – including centres of excellence – which generate a turnover of more than £371m a year.

“Together with major employers including Arla Foods UK, Mole Valley Farmers, Thatchers Cider, ABP and Yeo Valley, agricultural companies in the South West contribute more than £3bn in gross value added to the UK economy.”

To help profile some of the exciting research, development and commercially available technology in the region, South West Agri-tech is holding a conference at Exeter Racecourse on 20 April. It will feature a range of outdoor robotic and drone demonstrations, an indoor market place with dedicated networking time, and high profile speakers.

“The event will be free to attend and there are several sponsorship packages available,” says Mrs Rufus. “We want the whole farming, horticulture and agri-tech community to attend, and learn how such exciting developments have a genuine and practical role to play within agricultural businesses.”

Key technologies that are penetrating the global agriculture sector include data analytics, artificial intelligence, internet-of-things, machine learning, automation systems, and software service solutions.

Businesses which are already fully established and continually innovating in the region include the Small Robot Company, which uses robots to plant, monitor and treat arable crops autonomously, enabling farmers to be more precise, productive, and environmentally friendly. Bennamann captures and repurposes methane gas from slurry stores, protecting the environment and producing an energy-rich renewable biofuel. And LettUs Grow offers vertical container farms, enabling people to grow local, sustainable produce with minimal waste and food miles.

“Simply put, agri-tech is needed to help the world to sustainably meet its demand for good quality, safe food,” explains Mrs Rufus. “In the South West, we are perfectly placed to help deliver that, with a range of specialities spanning the entire food supply chain. We are fortunate to have unparalleled support for agri-tech businesses to develop and grow, with business growth hubs, incubators and accelerators, as well as bespoke business expertise, tax incentives and access to funding. We now have the largest and fastest growing network of high growth SMEs in the UK agri-tech sector, and the time is right to really demonstrate what they can do for food producers in the region.”

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