With food shortages exacerbated by world events and the current cost of living crisis, Farming is going through what some are calling an Agri-Tech revolution. We take a look at five different shining UK examples in this our latest blog.
From their humble beginnings in a basement of an East London flat, Muddy Machines has thrived and they are behind Sprout, a robot they believe can truly deliver net zero farming.
Sprout uses cutting edge Artificial Intelligence and the latest sensor technologies to autonomously drive through fields, harvesting accurately for up to 16 hours a day with no decline in performance. Sprout can operate individually, or as part of a larger “herd”, building resilience against labour supply shortages which are a major concern currently. When operating as a herd, Sprout communicates with other machines, continuously adapting to optimise harvest performance. Taking Asparagus as an example, Sprout can carry out the work of ten people during the three month harvest period.
Small Robot Company
The Small Robot Company, is a Salisbury-based pioneer of what it has branded “per plant farming”, the firm is on a mission to help feed the world while regenerating the planet. With its quirkily named Robots called Tom, Dick and Harry, each of which has different functions, they help farmers boost their yields in a sustainable way. Working together the robots allow farmers to care for their crops at a level of detail never previously possible, all happening autonomously, with little or no effort from the famer.
Robot Tom starts the trios work, mapping each field and collecting data on which areas might be blighted by weeds or in need of attention. Next comes Dick, a spider-like bot out that electrocutes any weed detected without the use of potentially harmful chemicals. Finally, along comes Harry to plant individual seeds in precisely drilled holes without the need for ploughing.
The Small Robot Company points to the results achieved at Lockerley Estate farm in Hampshire, where using the robots has helped to reduce the use of pesticides by 41% and fertiliser by 32%.
Bristol based LettusGrow is one of a number of firms promoting the concept and benefits of vertical farming with their “Drop & Grow” Container Farms.
Think of Drop and Grow as essentially a farm-in-a-box. It is a vertical farming system inside container, where they combine their aeroponic technology and their software platform called Ostara, to create what LettusGrow believe to be the leading aeroponic container farm on the market.
The firm offers a 24 square metre and a 55 square metre option of vertical space, growing large amounts of produce, using no soil, zero pesticides amd up to 95% less water than outdoor farming.
Lifestock production has been regarded by some as an area slow to adopt new technologies.
This was the inspiration and focus for Devon based Elemental, who turn an international food and waste problem into value-added end products. The Elemental process has been designed to avoid waste by capturing at source direct from the meat processing line, high-quality proteins (stocks and extracts) and edible fats, thereby retaining these valuable resources within the human food chain.
All other residual organic material produced in processing meat is then converted via a unique patented process into an organo-mineral fertiliser product.
The Elemental process, materials that would have otherwise left site as waste are instead converted into three products proteins, edible fats and fertiliser that can be sold, leaving zero waste and avoiding landfill.
Glaia, founded in 2019 are behind a revolutionary technology developed at the University of Bristol which allows plants to harvest light more efficiently and supports the processes involved in biomass production. This results in increased crop yields which embodies Glaia’s mission to enhance agricultural productivity and reduce pressure on natural resources, by optimising the performance of plants.
At the heart of what Glaia do are Sugar Dots. The sugar-dots are a new type of yield enhancers, a synthetic analogue of a naturally occurring carbon-based nano material, capable of increasing photosynthetic efficiency and thereby increasing crop yields.
The sugar-dots are non-toxic, benign to the environment and water soluble, and can be applied directly to the soil, as part of irrigation systems, or by applying directly to the leaves.
Applying Glaia’s bio-stimulants to the roots or leaves gives photosynthesis a much-needed boost, increasing harvests by as much as 40% without increasing fertilisers or other climate unfriendly inputs. The technology could revolutionise the production of staple and horticultural crops, but for now the business is focusing on hydroponic tomatoes and strawberries, where they estimate the added value could initially result in a fivefold return on investment for the growers.
Rasel Mahmud, Project Leader of Land Ocean Farm, commented. “These are all great examples of how UK firms are pioneering Agri-Tech. With the problems that the UK and the world are currently facing in terms of affordable food supply, these and the 600 plus Agri-Tech start-ups can play a vital role in finding solutions”.