Event report: Agri-innovation Conference

Presenter at Agri-innovation conference in York
By Ruth MacDonald, Scottish Rural Network Support Unit

Ruth MacDonald from the Scottish Rural Network Support Unit reports from the Agri-Innovation Conference held in York on 31 January 2017.

From new ideas to tackle feather pecking in hens to improving the carcase traits of Swaledale sheep, this event provided plenty of inspiration for people looking to try something new in the agricultural sector. 

Impressive ideas

The Green Pea Company is a famer cooperative with approximately 240 members, growing high quality peas in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. If you buy BirdsEye frozen peas then you may well have eaten some of the peas grown by the Green Pea Company. Like many pea farmers, the members of the Green Pea Company are facing falling yields and an increased risk of soil borne diseases, which is why they decided to team up with PGRO (UK’s centre of excellence for beans and peas) to trial the use of cover crops. If successful this could improve yields by 0.85-1.2t/ha, equating to £8-20 million a year more income. It should also improve crop maturity, potentially leading to £15,000 a year saving in factory costs.

Working together

Dr Roy Nielson from the James Hutton Institute spoke about his experience taking part in an EIP-AGRI Focus Group. Described as a "fantastic opportunity", EIP-AGRI Focus Groups bring top researchers from across the European Union together with farmers and other businesses to address specific issues facing the industry. Dr Nielson stressed how important the involvement of farmers were to the success of the work of the Focus Group.   

Visit the EIP-AGRI website to find out more about Focus Groups and how to get involved.

Support for innovation

There were also talks from officials outlining the support available for projects looking to do something new in agriculture. Innovate UK opened their funding call for Health and Life Sciences projects on 6 February. You can find out more on the UK Government website

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland there is also funding available for collaborative innovation projects in agriculture as part of EIP-AGRI, an EU initiative to increase innovation in agriculture. Visit the EIP-AGRI website for more informaiton.

In Scotland this is delivered through the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF).