Food sector’s space challenge
The UK’s space, food and agriculture industries met in London this week to assess how space technology can better support future global food and agricultural production.
‘Satellites for Agri-Food’ highlighted how the British farming industry, food manufacturers and producers can access multi-million pound grants to deliver new ideas for increasing production efficiency using satellite and space technology.
It brought together over 150 businesses, entrepreneurs, academics and funders to address current and future challenges, such as climate change, data translation and food security, facing the agriculture and food sectors .
Hosted by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), its purpose was to encourage new collaborative projects to apply for funding in Innovate UK’s latest £3.75 million competition. Grants of £18 million (€25 million) are also available through the European Horizon 2020 agriculture programme.
Dr David Telford, knowledge transfer manager for agriculture with KTN, told delegates the United Nations predicted food production will need to increase by 70 per cent to cope with a world population expected to reach more than nine billion by 2050.
“This will be a major challenge for the global food system which will have to balance demand with sustainable supplies, as well as meeting the challenges of a low emissions world and maintaining biodiversity,” he said.
Keston Williams, technical director of south coast-based semi-exotic produce specialist Barfoots, highlighted the possibilities that driver-less tractors and greater data connectivity could bring to the food sectors and encouraged the industry to “delve into the world of space”.
Simon Baty, knowledge transfer manager for food with KTN, described the event as about “seizing the opportunity” of collaboration. “It is through collaboration that companies will be able to grow more and sell more by adding value,” he said.
The ‘Satellites for Agri-Food’ competition is open to all companies involved in the food, agriculture and space industries. Projects must be collaborative and business-led, and applications can be submitted from 16 November up to the final deadline of 24 February 2016.