As July 2022 has seen temperatures across the UK and Europe hit record levels, we are looking at climate-friendly tech to cool us down.
Crops and livestock have struggled with the heat – in the case of peas, for example, farmers are racing against the clock to harvest before quality is dramatically impacted by the weather conditions.
Heat-stressed animals and plants, an increased risk of fire, machinery breakdowns, and a need to potentially re-schedule irrigation plans are coming at an already stressful time in the industry.
Even controlled and protected environment facilities will incur additional energy costs to maintain optimum temperatures and adequate ventilation.
As if we needed any reminder of the need for new solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, extreme weather events are a stark indicator of the urgency of the problem.
Reading the gauge
The last month has seen the Agri-TechE team out taking the temperature of the industry during the Show season (check out our Twitter Feed and LinkedIn to see more about that!). We’ve been talking to our members and other industry leaders, policy-makers, funders and more, both in the UK and internationally.
And the hot topics are – unsurprisingly – all about delivering on the net zero agenda and ideally taking a “circular economy” approach across the supply chain.
From harnessing biological solutions to manage pests and diseases (such as beneficial insects and microbes, for example), to using seaweed derivatives as a livestock feed to reduce methane emissions, the hunt is on for climate-friendly tech to replace or augment existing solutions.
Albotherm coating for greenhouses maintains the optimum temperature while reducing labour costs.
The Agri-TechE network is working hard towards this agenda
From solutions to measure and manage carbon emissions and biodiversity gain resulting from land-use change, our members are working hard to create solutions and we can help facilitate this. This week we were helping one of our technology members to find an academic partner with expertise in life cycle analysis emissions from food production.
Use of biologicals to increase plant resilience and reduce the application of agchem is also gaining traction – we’re excited to see the natural symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi being harnessed to boost productivity, as well as the natural enemies of disease-causing bacteria – so-called “phages” being deployed to reduce the incidence of disease-causing bacteria in plants and animals.
We’ve also seen plenty of technologies from our members presented at Groundswell and Fruit Focus helping farmers understand and deliver plant nutrient requirements more precisely and efficiently.
Machinery is heading towards electrification with this year seeing some of the big machinery suppliers showcasing their journey towards electric, and the robots showing how they are moving closer to autonomously managing and harvesting crops more precisely and efficiently.
High pressure area advancing
Hutchinsons discuss healthy soils at Groundswell 202
Of course, this evolving tech has to sit alongside – and by handled by – people. And that remains a major pinch-point, either on-farm labour or expertise in the research pipeline to help generate the vital new knowledge to deliver robust on-farm models.
There are isolated flurries of serious expertise in the research community but we know that more is needed – both in terms of training and funding for research to answer the key questions of the future.
Forecasting a BBQ weekend?
And what better illustration on the hottest day of the year than to imagine life in the field on a vegetable harvesting rig, or as part of a fruit picking team?
We’ll be giving our members the chance to test their skills against the robots at our Salad Rig Challenge with G’s Fresh on September 13th – with a big social and the chance to meet and network.
It’s going to be cool – in all senses of the word!