Innovative technologies increase efficiency and welfare in the dairy sector

Dairy-Tech Exhibition Stand

The Transforming Food Production programme is showcasing new innovations that will benefit dairy farmers in the UK and internationally.

Dairy-Tech took place slightly later this year on 7 April 2022 due to a reschedule, enforced by the Omicron wave at the start of the year. The Transforming Food Production (TFP) team had been waiting patiently since February for the opportunity to exhibit at the event. We were excited to find our exhibition stand located in the Innovation zone, adjacent to the presentation stage.

This location provided an excellent vantage point to speak to delegates focused on the latest innovations emerging across the sector, whilst also allowing us to listen in to the exciting presentations during the day.

Technology showcase: spotlight on advances in genomics and precision livestock farming

We had a 40 minute slot secured in the Innovation Hub programme through the ‘Funding your Innovation’ session. We were keen to use it to share details about the new technologies and innovations that are now maturing towards commercialisation and deployment through TFP project funding.

Tom Jenkins chaired the session and kicked things off with an overview of the TFP programme, before introducing the first speaker, Professor Jonathan Statham, CEO at RAFT Solutions. Jonathan gave an energetic and action packed presentation, focusing on advanced breeding technologies to improve germplasm for beef and dairy producers in the UK and North America.

Professor Jonathan Statham presenting at Dairy-Tech

Professor Jonathan Statham presenting at Dairy-Tech (Credit: Tom Jenkins, UKRI)

The project that RAFT Solutions are leading, is funded through the TFP UK-Canada partnership with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance programme.

Improved genetics have underpinned recent productivity and efficiency gains across the dairy sector. Jonathan highlighted exciting opportunities to align advances in advanced breeding with precision farming to realise the full genetic potential of livestock systems, supporting the transition towards net zero.

Douglas Armstrong presenting at Dairy-Tech

Douglas Armstrong presenting at Dairy-Tech (Credit: Tom Jenkins, UKRI)

Douglas Armstrong, CEO at IceRobotics, took the stage next to describe the application of precision livestock farming through data capture via animal behaviour monitoring using diagnostics and sensors.

The data integration and artificial intelligence platforms developed by IceRobotics, through Innovate UK project funding, has helped the company gain valuable insights into economic and welfare challenges affecting dairy farmers, including:

  • lameness
  • mastitis
  • fertility lying time
  • wellbeing.

The precision livestock farming system they have developed is being trialled across farms in the UK, US and China. Access to rapidly expanding markets in Asia is being supported through the TFP programmes UK-China partnership, with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Supporting your future innovation journey

The session then focused on forthcoming funding opportunities available through the Defra Farming Innovation programme, that is being delivered in partnership with the TFP programme.

Chris Lyons described the next round of competitions opening in the coming weeks and highlighted schemes that directly focus on farmer-led problems through to the Research Starter competition.

Support available to test the commercial viability of an idea through short-term feasibility studies projects was also described to Dairy-Tech delegates. With more details about forthcoming Farming Innovation programme competitions being referenced through the dedicated Farming Innovation Programme website.

Lucy Mather from Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) completed the session, highlighting support available to applicants interested in applying for innovation funding.

This can seem like a daunting task for new entrants, but help is available through Innovate UK KTN including:

  • advice on what makes a compelling and competitive application,
  • assistance in finding collaboration partners from the research base or industry,
  • critical feedback on applications ahead of project submission to competitions.

Lucy also gave some recent testimonies from successful applicants that advocated the benefit of working with Innovate UK KTN and the critical role they provided in enabling them to secure project funding.

With a tight agenda for the session, the team encouraged delegates to visit the exhibition stand to learn more about:

  • TFP projects supporting technology development and innovation in the sector
  • forthcoming funding support through the Defra Farming Innovation Programme.

Emerging agri-tech solutions

It was great to be engaging with people outside of the ‘virtual’ world of Teams and Zoom, that has become so familiar over the last 24 months.

Duncan Forbes presenting at Dairy-Tech

Duncan Forbes: Head of Dairy at Agri-EPI Centre, leads a session at the Innovation Hub at Dairy-Tech. (Credit: Tom Jenkins, UKRI)

A session of particular interest to the TFP team and delegates alike was the ‘Emerging Agri-Tech’ session, led by Duncan Forbes, Head of Dairy at Agri-EPI Centre. Duncan gave an overview of the assets and capabilities available to support the dairy sector including the South-West Dairy Development Centre he heads up.

The session also included an update on the WELL-CALF project, led by Smartbell (Cambridge Animal Technologies Ltd). Jose Chitty, gave an update on their project that is focused on developing precision agriculture technology to improve health and management decision making, to optimise production efficiency and welfare in the dairy-beef sector.

Top image:  Innovate UK and KTN team at Dairy-Tech: the team was showcasing case studies of TFP projects and providing details about forthcoming funding opportunities available through the Defra Farming Innovation Programme (left to right, Tom Jenkins, Chris Lyons, Lucy Mather, Robert Crook). (Credit: Tom Jenkins, UKRI)

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