Boosting agricultural production in Africa, using data to drive efficiencies in UK farming, and improving understanding of the plant microbiome are three key issues being addressed at a major conference next week.

  • 13
  • JAN
  • 2017

The Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum (ROIF), which will be held from 18-20 January, is attracting industry leaders from around the world to try and provide solutions to global food challenges. “It’s clear from the range of pre-competitive pitches we’ve received that the breadth of topics the forum will cover will be extremely broad,” says Chris Dunkley, chief executive of Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise. “Day three of the event will bring industry champions together to discuss everything from crop science to agronomy and data - giving everyone from farmers to scientists the chance to get involved with the big opportunities in global food security.”

Five key challenges will shape the day, kicking off with social acceptance of crop protection technologies; a key issue here in the UK. It will then move on to improving knowledge about African soils and landscapes to help focus agronomic advice on the most productive areas. A group of potential collaborators will work through each of the challenges.

“By bringing together international representatives from across the agri-food supply chain, ROIF 2017 is a game-changing way of fast-tracking answers to some of the biggest global questions,” explains Mr Dunkley. “With technology ever evolving, this unique event will be crucial for sharing knowledge and expertise across the entire agricultural community.”
The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) is hoping to bring together an alliance of researchers at the event to boost understanding of the plant microbiome, leading to enhanced crop health and productivity.

And from Syngenta’s perspective, improving the use and security of agricultural data is a fundamental challenge which could, if overcome, enable more effective decision-making at farm level while also driving organisational and sector change across the globe. “Farm data is very topical with so much being generated, but turning it into something usable is critical,” says Mr. Dunkley. “The internet is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for agriculture. Now more than ever it’s crucial for the best minds in the industry to share their knowledge and expertise to promote a data revolution.”

With a background in cutting-edge research, Rothamsted is the perfect host for such an event, which will feed into real change on the ground and an industry white paper to record best practice and ongoing projects for the year ahead. “Open Innovation has undoubtedly speeded up the development of new products and services in other sectors, and now we are excited to be using it to benefit British and global agriculture, which is so vital to all of humanity,” says Mr Dunkley.

Chairing the first day of the event will be BBC Farming Today’s Charlotte Smith, with day two featuring keynote speaker Christian Witt from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a ministerial address from George Freeman MP. 

For further information or to book tickets, please visit

For any media enquiries please contact Olivia Cooper, partner at Agri-hub: The agri-media professionals. Tel: 01392 840009 or email

About Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise (RoCRE): The Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE, is a new and unique hub focused on promoting collaboration and innovation by partnering with commercial agricultural technology businesses and opening up the research process. RoCRE is part of the historical Rothamsted Research campus located in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside.  RoCRE offers a range of facilities, including state of the art conference facilities, flexible laboratory space, and business incubation units, providing exciting opportunities for your business to thrive.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
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About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.