Over 400 delegates from research and industry meet in Edinburgh on Monday 17th July to examine how precision agriculture can address the challenge of feeding a growing world population.
Researchers will dicuss global issues including less land, with diminishing resources and the serious concerns about the environment and climate change. Technologies like robotics, sensors and artificial intelligence, informed by the data generated from crop, soil and livestock systems offer revolutionary solutions to some fundamental food production issues.
Organised by representatives from BSAS (British Society of Animal Science), The James Hutton Institute, Newcastle University, SoilEssentials and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) the four day ECPA event, based in the John McIntyre Conference Centre at the University of Edinburgh’s Pollock Halls complex, the event combines keynote sessions with workshops and a day long field visit, on Thursday 20th July, to the James Hutton Institute’s facilities outside Dundee.
Representing SRUC, the lead academic host for the event, Dr Tony Waterhouse explained: “Precision agriculture is in use across the world, delegates from the Americas, Australasia, Europe and China will be explaining developments in the use of sensors and other technologies in vinyards, mountain pastures and intensive cropping systems both tropical and temperate. We are all learning far more precise and efficient ways to grow livestock and crops without using so many pesticides, wasting nutrients or damaging vital soils.”
“Making progress requires partnerships and collaborations. Scotland is playing its part as staff from SRUC, the James Hutton Institute, the Moredun Research Institute and others will explain. However in the case of Precision Agriculture, the links between academia and industry and between Research and Practice are absolutely critical so I think it’s significant that there are almost as many representatives from industry registered for the event as academics. It shows this is a sector with real potential.”
The conference has support from the UK Governments “AgriTech” Initiatives, linking industry with research, including Agri-Epi and AgriMetrics, the Department for International Trade, SOYL, Agrisat, Greentronics, PESSL Instruments, Next Instruments, CENSIS, ForceA, Satellite Applications, Catapult, Immarsat, CASE-NH, Micasense, Geometrix, Trimble and Delta-T Devices.
While a large part of the conference timetable is given over to various specialist workshops involving presentations by individual researchers there will be keynote addresses on three days. At 10am on Monday 17 July, after a welcome by SRUC Principal Professor Wayne Powell, there will be discussion about people and precision agriculture and how the data revolution can work for rural communities. Immediately after lunch on Tuesday 18th July, a speaker from Microsoft will talk about Big Data before a session showcasing industry advances in the field. The morning of Wednesday 19th July opens with a retrospective look at 20 years of Precision Agriculture, spanning the period since the last time the conference as held in the UK.
“It will be a fascinating week,” explains Tony Waterhouse.” I look forward not only to the international contributions, but those from my SRUC Colleagues, including Simon Gibson- Poole on his disease detection work using UAV’s or “drones”, Claire Morgan-Davies on EID and the management of sheep in a hill farming system systems research at the Kirkton Hill & Mountain Research Centre and research with Fiona Kenyon of the Moredun on precision sheep worm control. In addition there will be a talk by Professor Bob Rees on soil management while Dr Paul Hargreaves will explain his work on soil compaction and tractors in grass management.