This theme has the strategic aim of informing the electronics community of the needs of modern agronomy and food science to enable engineering of new systems and “e”-devices for reducing waste, increasing yields and improving nutrition Achievements include the establishment of the Syngenta University Innovation Centre, contribution to the Sustainable Agri-Food panel (Westminster, June 2011), and, with Syngenta and the BBSRC Rothamsted Research Centre, the first-ever successful demonstration in 2013 of a viable wireless sensor for fungal pathogens including Sclerotinia sclerotiorum - the most economically significant monocyclic crop disease in Northern Europe.
Integrating sensors, electronics, control, power systems and ICT engineering into agriculture is a key enabler for delivering improved food supply and sustainable energy production without increased burden on the limited fertile land-bank. This exploitation of non-traditional technologies to improve global farming is extremely timely. In addition to climate change and overpopulation, the westernisation of world diets is producing even greater pressure on agriculture – approximately seven kilograms of grain is required to produce one kilogram of meat. Many of the benefits of fertilisation, irrigation and seed selection have already been realised and a new impetus is required to deliver the necessary yield improvements.
We believe that this impetus will come from sensor and ICT based control processes applied to agricultural processes. Electronics in agriculture research addresses the needs and problems of all stakeholders in agriculture sector, from the farm to the shop: farmers and growers; seed and chemical providers; food logistics providers; agricultural machinery and equipment providers; food processors; suppliers and wholesalers; and retailers. For each of these stakeholder groups, sensing and ICTs offer benefits to improve practices, raise yields, reduce costs, raise profit margins, secure food supplies, and address the sustainability of the sector.
The vision of e-Agri is to look at the basics of farming and to understand what we actually need to be doing in order to deliver some solutions to the farming and food supply chain community.
We communicate with the farmers, plant scientists and genetics scientists to understand what they are trying to achieve and then re-engineer the basic devices. Therefore our intention is not to make some piece of equipment that sits in the lab doing detailed analysis instead we hope to achieve a very different way of sensing directly in the fields. As sensing or controlling directly in the fields provides less specific and much wider range of data it tells more information about the fields and we believe this is the key to solve the growing food demand.
We partner up with all the enabling disciplines in Physical Sciences band to get in depth knowledge of a system.
We then as electronic engineers perform the work of an integrator. So basically putting together smart technologies together, be it a control system for robotics unit that go around the field harvesting or a smart sensor built inside the smartphones that can pick up crop features/disease. The mission is to produce disruptive technologies, that is, the technologies that will actually make a difference in addressing the global challenges and assist the developing economies especially the smallholder famers.