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Agri-Tech Week 2017: East Anglia’s farming knowledge meets tomorrow’s technology

PUBLISHED: 13:35 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:35 31 October 2017

The Robocrop In-Row Weeder developed by Peterborough firm Garford Farm Machinery, whose managing director Philip Garford will speak at the Agri-Tech REAP conference. Picture: Garford Farm Machinery.

The Robocrop In-Row Weeder developed by Peterborough firm Garford Farm Machinery, whose managing director Philip Garford will speak at the Agri-Tech REAP conference. Picture: Garford Farm Machinery.

Garford Farm Machinery

Agri-Tech Week returns next month, aiming to showcase East Anglia’s expertise in farming technology and to spark new industry collaborations to transfer knowledge into the field.

Argentinian farmer María Beatriz 'Pilu' Giraudo will be the keynote speaker at the Agri-Tech Week 2017 REAP conference. Picture: Oliver Vitola. Argentinian farmer María Beatriz 'Pilu' Giraudo will be the keynote speaker at the Agri-Tech Week 2017 REAP conference. Picture: Oliver Vitola.

Ideas for fusing modern tech and scientific advances with traditional farming philosophies will be discussed when farmers, technologists and researchers converge for Agri-Tech Week 2017.

Held from November 6-10 across East Anglia, events including the flagship REAP (Realising our Economic and Agricultural Potential) conference, under this year’s theme of Today’s Knowledge Meets Tomorrow’s Technology.

The event will explore how emerging agri-tech can help sustain a productive and profitable future for farming – but one of its speakers says there could be lessons from the past too.

Andrew Blenkiron, estate director at the Euston Estate near Thetford, who believes that to ensure long-term soil security, organic material should be put back on the land rather than removing it with the harvest.

The challenge of soil compaction –will be discussed at Agri-Tech Week by independent mechanisation specialist Bill Basford. Picture: Agri-Tech East The challenge of soil compaction –will be discussed at Agri-Tech Week by independent mechanisation specialist Bill Basford. Picture: Agri-Tech East

But while a “knowledge intensive” approach can reduce reliance on artificial chemicals, Mr Blenkiron said farmers need to see the economic benefit.

“We need to go back to how my grandfather farmed, but using modern science,” he said.

“I believe that over the last 40 to 50 years, there has been an over reliance on artificial inputs. However, the biggest challenge that I face at the moment, is working out the economic benefits of spreading 30,000 tonnes of organic material from our anaerobic digester, compared to the cost of artificial applications.

“There may be no economic gain if you look at it on a straight costings basis, but I know that the organic material will have the longer-term benefit on the soil health, but how do I measure that?”

READ MORE: Agri-Tech Week 2017: Economist Prof Allan Buckwell will explain farming’s ‘triple helix’

The conference’s keynote address will be delivered by Argentinian farmer and “no-till” pioneer María ‘Pilu’ Giraudo, who is the tenth winner of the Kleckner Award from the Global Farmer Network and coordinates policies for sustainable development at the Ministry of Agroindustry for Argentina.

She said when her father first changed his fields to a non-tillage system 40 years ago “many thought he was mad,” but now it is widely adopted in South America where many farmers are beginning to see it as a route for the physical, biological and chemical recovery of the soil.

Agri-Tech Week was established in 2014 by Agri-Tech East, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association and the Suffolk Agricultural Association.

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East said: “The aim of REAP 2017 is to bring together innovative farmers and growers with leading researchers and technologists to improve the best practice of today. We are eager to continue the success of last year’s conference, which has resulted in a number of collaborations.”

EVENTS SCHEDULE

Agri-Tech Week is a series of events, discussions and workshops across East Anglia aiming to showcase excellence in innovation and foster new collaborations between businesses, researchers and government.

• Monday November 6

Water and Soils: Riseholme Campus, Riseholme Hall, Lincoln.

• Tuesday November 7

REAP Conference: Today’s Knowledge Meets Tomorrow’s Technology.

Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre, Hinxton, Cambridge.

• Wednesday November 8

Morning: Tyres, Traction and Compaction Workshop, Shotford Hall, Harleston, Norfolk.

Afternoon: Essex Agri-Tech Expertise, Wivenhoe House, Colchester.

• Thursday November 9

Morning: Agricultural Biotechnology Council animation launch, Earlham Institute, Norwich Research Park.

Afternoon: Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association Annual Lecture, Easton and Otley College, Norwich.

• Friday November 10

Saving Waste in Horticulture: Optimising Resources, NIAB Park Farm, Histon, Cambridge

For more information see the Agri-Tech Week website .

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