Rothamsted Research comments on today’s speech from the Business Secretary who called for an agricultural revolution in the use of technology and innovation.

  • 21
  • FEB
  • 2018

In a keynote address today at the annual conference of the National Farmers’ Union, Business Secretary Greg Clark called on the agricultural sector to embrace technology and innovation, as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, released in November last year.

Clark announced £90 million of new funding to provide the UK’s agri-food sector with expertise in robotics, AI and data science that, he says, will be critical in meeting the increasing food demands of a growing population, fuel rural development and create high-skilled jobs.

“New technologies require new abilities and today’s modern British farmer is a Swiss-Army-Knife of skills – an engineer, an environmentalist, a data scientist, a biochemist, an energy producer, a tourism entrepreneur and an investor, too,” noted Clark. His views endorsed those of the Environment Secretary, who had spoken at the conference the day before.

The funding, delivered as part of the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), will support “the creation of ‘Translation Hubs’ bringing together farmers and growers, businesses, scientists and Centres for Agricultural Innovation to apply the latest research to farming practice,” said Clark.

Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, which is responsible for the ISCF, commented: “Developing and effectively utilising the latest technologies and research methods will revolutionise the way we produce our food…This is precisely why the ISCF was created.”

Walport added: “We are now launching the process for businesses and researchers alike to come together to identify both pressing problems in food production and farming and opportunities that could benefit from the next wave of ISCF funding. I want to strongly encourage everyone in the sector to respond to our call for expressions of interest.”

Comment from Rothamsted Research

Angela Karp, Director for Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnerships
“We welcome the call from Business Secretary Greg Clark for a technology revolution in agriculture, and look forward to being part of that. We have already contributed, through projects such as our innovative CROPROTECT app to help farmers exchange best practice on smart management of pests, weeds and diseases. Rothamsted is also a founder partner of three of the four Centres for Agricultural Innovation, or agri-tech centres.

“We are exploiting our unique infrastructure and track history of developing innovations with academic and industrial partners across the sector to help place the UK at the forefront of this new revolution. This includes developing our own ideas generation and translation hub, Agricultural Research and Innovation Accelerator (AgRIA), with regional partners, for collaborative co-creation of innovative products and practices.

“This development brings together SMEs and larger businesses from wide technology sectors including remote and proximal sensors, devices, mobile phones, digital technologies, robotics, imaging and spectroscopy.

“The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund provides new opportunities for us to work with existing and new partners to make sure that the best of our innovative science, engineering and technology, continues to make a difference in real-world applications.

“Rothamsted will continue to build the knowledge and practical experience that leads to healthier soils, increased yields of nutritious crops and cheaper, more efficient food production hand-in-hand with environmental protection.”

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.
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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.