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24th April 2017, 10:52am
Arable Horizons: agri-tech experts explore tomorrow’s farming technologies
Arable Horizons: agri-tech experts explore tomorrow’s farming technologies Experts in agricultural robotics will lead an interactive industry event exploring tomorrow’s farming technologies as part of a new series examining some of the UK’s most exciting and innovative research fields.

Created by Farmers Weekly, ‘Arable Horizons’ is a series of five expert-led interactive talks that shine a spotlight on innovations in agriculture which are set to revolutionise the sector.

For centuries the adoption of new approaches and technologies, from selective breeding and more powerful machinery to chemical fertilisers and high-yielding crops, have enabled farmers to reduce costs and boost production. These talks will ask: what will technology for the farm of tomorrow look like?

From robot-assisted farming to gene-edited crops, the events will explore how developments in the field could deliver higher yields and cheaper production, while also bringing a greener and more stable future for British agriculture.

Professor Simon Pearson and Professor Tom Duckett from the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT) at the University of Lincoln, UK, will lead the Robotics, Automation and Associated Technologies event taking place at the National Space Centre in Leicester on Wednesday 26th April 2017. The event is free to attend and delegates can book their place online.

Together they will detail the pioneering research taking place at the University of Lincoln and explain to industry guests how robots and other novel technologies can make UK farming more efficient than ever, while reducing the cost of labour and use of pesticides.

Editor of Farmers Weekly, Karl Schneider, said: “UK arable farmers face a variety of unprecedented challenges over the next 25 years, from pesticide resistance and soil degradation to climate change and feeding an increasing population. Farmers Weekly, in partnership with Syngenta, want to draw attention to some of the individuals and institutions working to ensure a more productive and sustainable future for UK agriculture. We want to highlight some of the incredibly exciting research projects currently underway in the sector, projects that could genuinely change the way we farm in 2040.”

As part of the Arable Horizons talk on 26th April, Professor Tom Duckett, a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, will provide an overview of the current use of robotics and associated technologies in agriculture. Sharing experience of his own state-of-the-art agri-robotics research, he will highlight possibilities for working with other industries to make the integration of new machinery and technology into the farmers’ everyday toolkit as simple and productive as possible.

Professor Duckett currently spearheads an innovative research project to develop a fully automatic robotic harvesting system for broccoli using cutting-edge 3D camera technology. This is just one of the LIAT projects supported by the UK Government’s Agri-tech Catalyst funding programme.

LIAT brings together expertise across a range of subjects to tackle current and future challenges facing the agricultural and food manufacturing industries. In the past year, LIAT has secured more than £10million in national and international research funding to deliver R&D in collaboration with partners across the food and farming sectors.

Director of LIAT Professor Simon Pearson will highlight some of the specific projects taking place at Lincoln which focus on novel robotics and machinery. These include developing fleets of small autonomous field robots and progressing numerous applications for robotics in food processing environments. He will discuss their integration into the UK agriculture industry and explore what they could mean for the farmer on the ground.

Professor Pearson said: “We are delighted to be leading this Arable Horizons event, which will focus on agri-robotics as one of the most urgent but exciting areas of scientific research in the UK. At Lincoln, our aim is to ensure that farmers are equipped with the tools and technologies they need to thrive and this event will provide a valuable opportunity to discuss some of the key challenges and solutions facing the sector.”

The talks by Professor Pearson and Professor Duckett will be followed by an interactive panel discussion led by Farmers Weekly Editor Karl Schneider, and a presentation by global agri-business Syngenta about their work in robotics.

LIAT expertise in agri-robotics and agri-engineering was also the subject of the most recent event in the University of Lincoln’s agricultural breakfast briefing series, held on Wednesday 19th April at the University’s Riseholme Campus, where LIAT holds is headquarters. Upcoming briefings will focus on subjects pertinent to the region’s farming community including biodiversity and agri-forestry.

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