As this year’s harvest ramps up the early signs are that this is going to be a challenging year, with indications that barley has suffered from the wet spring and low light levels in June and below average yields are also expected for wheat. But with suggestions that the French harvest is looking poorer still and the low pound boosting exports, the final verdict on profitability remains to be seen. Agriculture is increasingly impacted by global factors and our agri-tech cluster is keen to show the world that we are open for business.
A recent report shows the UK agri-tech activities contribute £14.3bn to the UK economy, and generate £13.6bn of UK exports.
We are attracting a growing number of international members including companies like Mavrx, who joined in our first year. Headquartered in San Francisco, Mavrx has set up an ‘Uber-style’ aerial imaging business that operates across the US and internationally, and Mavrx's CEO Max Bruner came to talk at the RemSens SIG in December.
The idea for the business came from a chance meeting in Cambridge and it is that type of networking that we are seeking to facilitate with Agri-Tech Week.
Agri-Tech Week encompasses a diverse range of activities across the region designed to bringing in new customers, collaborators and partners to the UK ecosystem. We are actively talking to overseas trade association to encourage them to time their UK visits to fit in with Agri-Tech Week. Last year this gained representations from Australia, New Zealand, India and Mexico, and we are hoping to extend this and welcome missions from more parts of the globe.
Tina Barsby, of NIAB, told us how one high level representative from the agriculture sector in Pakistan had successfully made it into the heart of the Fens for the official opening of the Eastern AgriGate Research Hub last year. AgriGate will be hosting the first event of the week called ‘Talking Shop’, which is particularly focused on strategies for growing agri-tech businesses.
The week will end on a celebration of the ‘International Year of Pulses’ hosted by Rothamsted Research in partnership with the John Innes Centre and others. There is increasing interest in including peas and beans within the three crop cycle, so the insights of these world leading experts – that have trial plots on the region’s soils – will be highly relevant to many.
REAP - Biological Agriculture boosts yields
Soils will also be the feature of Gary Zimmer’s keynote presentation at REAP in the middle of the week. It was Julius Joel, chair of our Stakeholder Group, who recommended this charismatic speaker after he saw for himself the visible improvement to crops grown according to Gary’s ‘Biological Farming’ methodology. Many of the major brands are looking for producers who are prepared to adopt this approach which builds resilience in the crop from the soil upwards so REAP is a unique opportunity to find out more.
Other speakers at REAP also have a global reach. PA Consulting, BT, Fujitsu and Lockheed Martin will be talking about how technologies proven in other sectors and other continents offer potential for the UK agri-food industry.
It is against this backdrop of global potential that Agri-Tech Week has grown from its 2014 roots laid down with our co-founders, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association and the Suffolk Agricultural Association. Our aim during the week is to showcase and celebrate our collective agri-tech excellence and opportunity for new partnerships, collaborations and customers. Our partners will be using Agri-Tech Week to present some of the best of British agri-tech, all with a very practical focus of meeting interesting people and accessing novel thinking to improve productivity, profitability and sustainability.
Come along and join us – we guarantee you’ll learn something new, meet someone worth meeting, and see technology to make you think.