With the news reported by The Times this week, revealing that harvesting robotics and other agritech innovations are increasingly being put to work, we thought it would be good to take a look at how agriculture and technology are an essential partnership for the future of our food supply.
Imagine a future where fruit picking is done by smart robots that will not break their back and overheat under the scorching sun. Where diesel-powered massive tractors are replaced by a fleet of small autonomous drones on wheels, running on solar power, where the fields are constantly monitored by flying drones to check and where pesticides and herbicides are replaced by net zero, non-toxic innovations.
Fieldworkrobotics recently signed a partnership with German machine maker Bosch to develop its soft fruit-picking robots. The technology specialises in fragile fruits and veggies like raspberries, cauliflower, and tomatoes, using advanced robotic arms and is already in demand around the world, where growers can see the ROI it will have year on year as it operates alongside their workforce to increase yields.
LettUSGrow uses aeroponic technology that enables plants to grow up to twice as fast as hydroponics, while using less water, fertiliser & zero pesticides. All this is driven & validated by a team of plant scientists in their world leading aeroponic research centre.
Controlled environments such as greenhouses and vertical farming units are becoming increasingly popular in the UK as installation costs are falling and they are seen as a way of reducing the carbon footprint for food production, with reduced need for food transportation and use of green energy.
CHAP’s controlled environment facilities include the Advanced Glasshouse Facility and the Vertical Farming Development Centre at STC, the Innovation Hub for Controlled Environment Agriculture (IHCEA) in partnership with Liberty Produce and the James Hutton Institute, and the Natural Light Growing (NLG) Centre, in partnership with RIPE and University of Warwick Life Sciences, Wellesbourne.
"All of the CHAP capabilities based at STC are around sustainable intensification of produce, making sure that as we grow food going forward, we can do that in an environmentally responsible way so that we can continue to grow high-yielding, good quality crops into the future," explained Dr Dave George of the Stockbridge Technology Centre.
Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) believes that the future lies in 'lifting the lid' on agritech and educating about the advantages of embracing innovation.
“There needs to be a fundamental shift in the perception and overall infrastructure of our food supply system.
“We believe in educating the industry about how both agriculture and horticulture can be made smarter through the incorporation of technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics and automation, along with the development of new growing systems and practices, all designed to promote long term sustainability,” he explained.
With this in mind, the consortium has developed two unique and ‘free to attend’ industry events, FPC Future and FPC Careers. Both events will be held at the East of England Arena and Events Centre in Peterborough on 16 March and each tackles different challenges faced by the industry in a unique way.
FPC Future has proven itself to be the agritech event for the fresh produce and flower industry and will house an exhibition, conferences, working displays and tours.
“This much-needed event will educate and showcase all that is new right now, as well as exploring what the future promises,” explained FPC’s Communication Manager, Kelly Shields.
“Visitors will be able see how new technologies can help them become more efficient, increase productivity and help their workforce” she added.
The conference programme is an extensive one, covering pre and post farm innovations to include robotics and automation, data driven technologies, supply chain waste, vertical farming and sustainability.
In short, there’s something for everyone!
“FPC Future is the perfect platform for companies wishing to showcase their next generation technology and product lines to the growers, packers, importers, exporters, retailers, wholesalers and service providers,” said FPC’s Business Development Manager Linda Bloomfield.
“Innovation will drive the future commercial success of the sector, and this is a great opportunity for those in agritech to take part as an exhibitor in order to showcase their solutions, forge new contacts and ultimately pick up new business,” she added.
FPC Careers has been developed to connect today’s up and coming talent with the food chains’ best employers. Alongside the opportunity to meet face-to face-with representatives from major fresh produce companies and specialised recruitment agencies, industry experts will be available throughout the day to provide attendees with free advice, mentoring and guidance.
“Our industry desperately needs new blood and this is a fantastic opportunity for companies to showcase their businesses and career possibilities to students and other young jobseekers at a time when they are considering the first or next steps that they wish to take with their careers,” explained Bloomfield.
“Exhibiting at a specialised event like this is a cost-effective and efficient way of engaging with younger jobseekers interested in joining our sector, as well as forging connections with the specialised recruitment agencies who will also be taking part,” she concluded.
To find out more and to register for your free ticket click here.