Royal Norfolk Show will be a stage for agri-tech innovators

Royal Norfolk Show 2016.
Picture: James Bass

Royal Norfolk Show 2016. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Cutting-edge research and emerging technologies which could help farmers maximise resources to feed a growing population will be highlighted at this year's Royal Norfolk Show.

Matthew Kealey (left) and Chris Eglington of Crop Angel - a Norfolk company supplying crop-spraying

Matthew Kealey (left) and Chris Eglington of Crop Angel - a Norfolk company supplying crop-spraying drones. - Credit: Archant

The Innovation Hub will return to the event at the Norfolk Showground on June 28 and 29, exploring the farming research priorities which were outlined in a recent Feeding the Future review by the National Farmers' Union:

• Harness the power of data and digital technologies, including precision farming.

• Improve and balance environmental protection with agricultural productivity.

• Understand how to build resilience in farm businesses.

UEA Wensum Demonstration Test Catchment Project: Monitoring water and impact on environment at Salle

UEA Wensum Demonstration Test Catchment Project: Monitoring water and impact on environment at Salle Farms. - Credit: Salle Farms

• Develop labour-saving technologies.

• Understand farming's contribution to health and wellbeing.

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Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, said: 'Agri-food is the last major sector to be digitised and this represents a major opportunity for companies not traditionally associated with farming. Norfolk has always led innovation in farming practice and the show provides an ideal opportunity to meet people that are open to new ideas and technologies.'

Royal Norfolk Show director Mark Nicholas added: 'Since the 18th century Norfolk has been at the forefront of agricultural innovation. The Innovation Hub is an opportunity to see the new agri-technology that is emerging from the East of England.

'The agri-food industry in the UK is underpinned by world class science but the connection is often not clear. With the Innovation Hub we are looking to show key areas where progress is being made within the areas defined by farmers as priorities and gain feedback on future direction.'

The Innovation Hub, sponsored by the British Beet Research Organisation, is a partnership between Agri-Tech East and the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.


• Agrimetrics: Opening up big data to farmers.

Information about soils, weather, land use, disease threat and past performance of varieties is needed for good decision-making – but it is not always easily accessible. Agrimetrics, established as a big data centre for the agri-food sector, will be using an interactive demonstration to show how open data resources can be used to support farmers to benchmark their performance, create evidence for planning and deliver new products and services.

• Wensum Demonstration Test Catchment Project: Clean water with less waste.

Working with Norfolk farmers, this project has been assessing how land management measures can reduce run-off into the River Wensum, while maintaining farm profitability. The University of East Anglia will be displaying a 3D model that demonstrates how agricultural activity can be adjusted to reduce loss of nutrients, with a water analysis laboratory and a display of cover crop plants.

• SOYL: Decision-making in your hands.

The company will show how an iPhone app can help farmers improve the precision of their operations. On a single farm, there is a great deal of variation between fields; in topography, soil type, and nutrition levels, so SOYL will showcase products designed to manage variable rate applications, improve soil structure, map soil nutrients and identify variants in phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.

• Smartbell: Improving communication with cows.

Smartbell brings the expertise of an experienced herdsman to an automated dairy system. Using a 'FitBit for cows', it is able to detect changes in behaviour by individual animals that may indicate that they are in pain, becoming fertile, pregnant or unwell or not eating.

• CropAngel: Just-in-time spraying.

Precision application of agrochemicals, where and when required, is the future of crop protection according to CropAngel, one of the first companies to explore the use of drones for spraying, run by agronomist Matthew Kealey and Norfolk farmer, Chris Eglington.

• NIAB: Waste not want not for a new age.

As food and other organic waste decompose, flies, bacteria and fungi feeding on it convert the material to another form. This process can be used to create secondary metabolites of enormous commercial importance such as antibiotics, new types of protein for animal food, or even cosmetics – as NIAB will explain.

• University of Essex: Let there be more light.

The importance of the length of the growing season to yield is being increasingly understood and the University of Essex will be discussing this with the help of an interactive thermograph.