Agri-Tech Week 2014 will discuss how technology can revolutionise farming

Agri Tech week 2014: Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East (left), talks to farm staff about

Agri Tech week 2014: Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East (left), talks to farm staff about agri-tech innovations - Credit: Submitted

Agri-Tech Week 2014 aims to show how farming, science and technology can combine to improve production and competitiveness.

The burgeoning demand for more food from finite land resources has created a 'perfect storm' for farmers – an imperative need to embrace technological and scientific innovation.

And just as East Anglia was the crucible of the first agricultural revolution, it continues to lead the way as the industry seeks to rise to the challenges of the 21st century.

So, to better understand the issues facing farmers, to showcase some of the region's emerging technologies, and to enable better transfer of knowledge from science to agriculture, a series of events has been organised across the region next month.

Agri-Tech Week 2014 is being presented by Agri-Tech East, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, the Suffolk Agricultural Association, and the Home Grown Cereals Authority.

Together they have created a series of events that will be of interest to farmers, growers, researchers, plant breeders, technologists, entrepreneurs and investors.

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, said: 'By 2030, the UK will need the equivalent of 7m more hectares of land to support our growing population. It is estimated that with 'smart use' of land and technology we could release more benefit from existing land resources.

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'We now have a perfect storm where there is a clearly-articulated market need for innovation and an appetite for change.

'For farmers and growers 'total factor productivity' is a key consideration for the uptake of new approaches and disruptive technologies and this requires a sound evidence base. Agri-Tech East proposes that the East of England takes a lead in identifying what 'smart use' means in the real world.

'Innovation is needed, not only in the way we develop new varieties of crops that can perform well under adverse environments, but also in the way these crops are grown, harvested and processed. Agri-tech encompasses a huge variety of new technologies designed to improve productivity while minimising environmental impacts.'

One of the key events in Agri-Tech Week will be the REAP conference (Realising our Economic and Agricultural Potential) in Cambridge.

Norfolk farmer Poul Hovesen is one of the farming representatives on the Agri-Tech East Stakeholder Group. He believes that innovation is the life-blood of agriculture and has been involved for several years with a watershed project managed by the University of East Anglia – and he is looking forward to the cluster's first conference.

Mr Hovesen said: 'We need to bring more entrepreneurs into agriculture, to encourage them to understand what the challenges are and to see where they can bring new ideas into the industry. There is a lot of interesting work going on at the research institutes but these ideas and information aren't being followed through with applied R&D (research and development) out into the field. I see an important role for Agri-Tech East is to bring these people together so that it is possible to design projects that have greater value to the industry.'

The REAP conference on November 12 will include a Producers' Panel to discuss the needs of farmers and growers for technology and research. The panel will include Tony Bambridge, managing director of Marsham-based B&C Farming, Richard Hirst, of Hirst Farms in Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, and Dr Ed Moorhouse, group technical director of G's Fresh.

There will also be an opportunity to hear from Helen Ferrier, chief science and regulatory affairs adviser for the NFU, and Bill Clark, commercial and technical director for NIAB.

End users will also be represented with Ian Noble, senior director at PepsiCo and a member of the UK Agri-Tech Leadership Council, and Richard Burkinshaw, European environmental strategy manager at Kellogg's, discussing the industry response to issues such as consumer needs and sustainability.

Agri-Tech week will also bring farmers and scientists together in Norfolk to discuss how the expertise of the region's world-leading research centres can be converted into tangible benefits in the field.

The thought-leadership seminar at the Centrum Building in Norwich Research Park will aim to improve understanding of the issues facing growers and producers, to showcase some emerging technologies, and to foster better 'knowledge transfer' from laboratories to farms.

Organised by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) the event, named 'What's science done for us?', will feature a panel of experts chaired by agricultural journalist Anna Hill, of BBC Farming Today, and including leading Norfolk farmer Poul Hovesen, inset, Dr Shamal Mohammed of the HGCA (Home-Grown Cereals Authority) and Dr Paul Nicholson and Dr Rachel Wells of the John Innes Centre.

Greg Smith, chief executive of the RNAA, said: 'We're delighted to be a key partner in this exciting initiative which will bring together all those with interests in developing the sector. As one of the region's oldest agricultural organisations it makes absolute sense to work with Agri-Tech East and we're looking forward to an exciting week which we hope will be a catalyst for future growth.'

The event on November 13 is for RNAA members and invited guests and, as numbers are limited, those wishing to attend are asked to get in touch with the RNAA at the earliest opportunity to secure a place. Contact or 01603 748931.