The need for ‘multiple disciplines to come together to explore innovations and develop applications’ for the future benefit of food and farming was a core message at the centre of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Smart Agriculture Conference held on Tuesday 8 September at Birmingham’s ICC.
A first for AHDB, the inaugural event was conceived to bring together academics and experts working across data, sensors and application to beg the question, how can we use innovations from other industries and disciplines to boost, improve and facilitate agriculture?
AHDB Chairman, Sir Peter Kendall, on opening the conference explained how he felt passionately that “AHDB had a central role to play in bringing together experts from a broad brush of specialisms to address and meet the needs of a rapidly changing industry.”
He went on to reiterate that this approach wouldn’t work in isolation, “Smart Agriculture is where it all begins, exploring all avenues, possibilities and innovations in order for British agriculture to be as productive and as efficient it can be in order to compete with the rest of the world.”
Recognising the need to look further afield than the agriculture industry, the Smart Ag conference programme offered up an international crowd of speakers from disciplines ranging from quantum imaging, informatics and metrics, emergent computing and robotics.
Keynote speaker Professor Salah Sukkarieh, from the Australian Centre for field robotics, University of Sydney, highlighted how ‘smart technologies were already being used in agricultural practices across Australia, but emphasised that developments from other industries offered valuable applications to other industries, “We’re already seeing intelligent software systems for autonomous decision making in commercial aviation, stevedoring, mining and environmental management and its potential for use in other areas.”
“Over the next five years we’ll start to see more robots on the farm, giving us greater crop intelligence for the grower.”
Echoing the sentiment, Peter Kendall said, “Farming is on the cusp of an agricultural revolution. Growing and rearing food is already becoming more reliant on precision technologies and farmers will increasingly use technology for every step of the production process. The challenge is to embrace these advances and meet the needs of this rapidly changing industry. Today’s conference will help kick start this process.”
As well as a diverse programme of speakers, the event also included an exhibitor hall with Bayer Crop Science, ADAS, Stockbridge Technology Centre, Farmex, Innovate UK, H L Hutchinson Ltd, Eurotech, Bristol Robotics Lab, Precision Decisions and BBSRC/NERC. A networking session facilitated by the Knowledge Transfer Network was also held.