Royal Norfolk Show’s Innovation Hub reinvented as a virtual showcase for agri-tech ideas

The Royal Norfolk Show's Virtual Innovation Hub will feature exhibitors including Crop4Sight, a digi

The Royal Norfolk Show's Virtual Innovation Hub will feature exhibitors including Crop4Sight, a digital product allowing potato growers to benchmark crop development throughout season. Picture: Crop4Sight - Credit: Crop4Sight

Following the cancellation of this summer’s Royal Norfolk Show, leading agricultural innovators have been given a virtual platform to share ideas on how to solve East Anglia’s most urgent farming challenges.

The Royal Norfolk Show's Innovation Hub will feature exhibitors including Norwich firm Iceni Diagnos

The Royal Norfolk Show's Innovation Hub will feature exhibitors including Norwich firm Iceni Diagnostics. Chief executive Prof Rob Field is pictured with one of the firm's rapid infection tests. Picture: Iceni Diagnostics - Credit: Iceni Diagnostics

The Innovation Hub, hosted by Agri-TechE on behalf of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, would usually take centre stage at the show in July.

But as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, the hub will be recreated online this year instead – aiming to answer questions such as: Can coffee beans and waste paper help solve global challenges? Are our chips down if the chemicals used to store potatoes are removed? And what has Covid-19 taught us about early detection of disease?

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE, said the online hub offered a valuable opportunity to discuss an emerging technology, or challenge it directly with a technologist or researcher.

“Sadly, the Royal Norfolk Show has been cancelled this year but, keen that the ‘show must go on’, we are recreating this experience virtually,” she said. “Each of the demonstrators will have an online booth to showcase their work and we will be pre-recording interviews on topical subjects that will be shown from July 1 as video podcasts.”

Dr Belinda Clarke, director Agri-TechE

Dr Belinda Clarke, director Agri-TechE - Credit: Agri-Tech East

RNAA chief executive Greg Smith added: “Over the past five years the Innovation Hub has become a recognised and important part of the Royal Norfolk Show, allowing people to see at first hand new and exciting developments in agriculture. We’re excited to be working with Agri-TechE to bring this to our ‘virtual’ visitors in 2020.

“Although we’re looking forward to the return of our shows next year, together with our sister association in Suffolk, we’re creating a strong and vibrant digital network for all those involved. This new event marks a first step for this initiative which we are all looking forward to immensely.”

READ MORE: College’s virtual event offers only chance to win prized 2020 Royal Norfolk Show rosettesVisitors to the virtual Innovation Hub, sponsored by the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO), will also be able to “eavesdrop” on conversations about topical issues such as how to mitigate the impact of the withdrawal of chemicals used to stop stored potatoes from sprouting, and the banning of seed treatments used to protect sugar beet plants from aphids and other pests.

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Innovation Hub demonstrators for 2020 include:

David Clarke, soils and farming systems technician at NIAB. Picture: NIAB

David Clarke, soils and farming systems technician at NIAB. Picture: NIAB - Credit: NIAB

• ADAS will launch “YEN Nutrition” and discuss how analysis of grain samples at harvest can be used to measure the success of nutrient management strategies for each crop.

• BBRO will be sharing the lessons learned during 2019, the first year of growing sugar beet without protective seed treatments, when improving soil resilience was vital to bringing in the harvest.

• Crop4Sight will introduce its digital product for potato growers which gives a “toolbox” of insights to allow in-season benchmarking of crop development. As extreme weather conditions become more frequent, the firm says tools which enable growers to make timely interventions within the growing season will prove invaluable.

• Iceni Diagnostics is developing a technology that can be used for rapid diagnosis of livestock viral infections in a non-clinical environment, such as a stable or farm. The current pandemic has highlighted the economic and societal need for rapid testing for viruses, and this Norwich-based company is developing a rapid, accurate test for a range of viral infections that provides a yes/no answer in less than 15 minutes.

• NIAB will be discussing insights from long-term agricultural experiments to optimise tillage and build soil fertility, including a 120-year-old trial on a clay loam soil in Suffolk which is comparing the effects of phosphorus and potassium fertilisers against the regular use of farmyard manure.

• The Sainsbury Laboratory, based on Norwich Research Park, is working on a technology that could overcome the withdrawal of chemicals used in potato stores. It enables the suppression of enzymes that convert starch to sugar in potatoes, which would allow storage at lower temperatures while maintaining quality for processing.

• The University of East Anglia (UEA) is investigating ways to build soil carbon stocks to build a healthier soil. It is working with Greenworld to see how paper crumble, a co-product of paper recycling, can be used to enrich soil, improve retention of water and nutrients, and increase productivity.

• To visit the Innovation Hub see the Agri-TechE website from July 1.