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£5.9m UKRI-backed project transforms waste food into animal food

Black fly larvae

From waste food to animal feed using the magic of insects and carbon-cutting technology. This is the extraordinary promise of a new project backed with £5.9 million from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Fly farming technology

The funding for the sustainable insect farming collaboration, led by London-based insect rearing company Entocycle and its partners, will allow them to scale up their cutting-edge farming model in the UK and across the world.

  • Entocycle’s innovative technology breeds black soldier flies which feed on unused food, such as rejected supermarket produce
  • the insects are then harvested and processed into animal feed using a highly automated system, that is profitable, sustainable and scalable.

Rolling this technology out across the country will make UK food production more efficient and less carbon-intensive, with the potential to create over 3,000 UK-based jobs.

In addition, as part of UKRI’s Transforming Food Production (TFP) challenges, the Science and Technology into Practice feasibility competition £4.3 million is being allocated to 23 feasibility projects.

Aim to boost productivity and reduce emissions

The aim of the competition is to demonstrate the feasibility of new prototype technology to boost agricultural productivity and reduce emissions.

Examples of projects being funded include:

  • Healthy Heifer, a precision solution to improve productivity across the dairy sector
  • a new biopesticide to control cabbage stem flea beetles in oilseed rape
  • a robot to monitor grain quality held in bulk storage.

Farming minister Victoria Prentis said:

I congratulate UKRI for their TFP challenge and all the recipients of the funding.

As a passionate advocate for tackling the farming and food industries’ greatest challenges it’s fantastic to see so many innovative projects being supported to help the sector grow with reduced environmental impact and less food waste.

Katrina Hayter, challenge director of UKRI’s TFP programme, said:

The Entocycle-led project is one of the most interesting and exciting projects we have funded.

Our aim is to make the UK a global hub for black soldier fly farming. Successful development and scaling up of this technology should lead to a significant boost in recycling of food waste and a reduction in emissions.

There are many innovative projects in our latest feasibility competition showcasing ideas for improving productivity and cutting emissions that range across the whole agricultural sector, from arable, to livestock, to sensor technology and to new biopesticides. Our funding and support for these projects is ongoing.

The TFP challenge

UKRI’s £90 million TFP programme is part the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and aims to:

  • help the agricultural sector grow economically with less environmental impact
  • set food production systems towards net zero emissions by 2040 by producing food more efficiently, to be more more resilient and sustainable
  • over four years of investment, accelerate the development and adoption of integrated precision approaches to improve productivity in agricultural systems
  • focus on the development, demonstration and adoption of data-driven systems and technologies to achieve a better approach to agricultural production and reduce emissions.

The remit includes both crop and farmed animal production as well as new production systems.

The long-term success of the challenge is dependent on a diverse range of farm businesses adopting new technologies and approaches.

Further information

The winners of the feasibility competition are:

Augmented berry vision

Led by Opposable Games in Bristol.

Developing low-cost, augmented reality (AR) prototype glasses for fruit pickers that can determine and label fruit ripeness and assist growers to produce high quality berries. As a proof of concept, blackberry will be used as an exemplar.

Partners include:

  • National Institute of Agricultural Botany
  • University of the West of England
  • Berry Gardens Growers Ltd.

Tool to reduce asparagus tip break down

Led by JGHC Limited in Ross-on-Wye.

Project aims to identify the factors that cause tip breakdown. This will be achieved by developing a decision support tool using classification models in order to identify and predict tip breakdown at their early stages.

Partners include:

  • Cranfield University
  • Cardiff University.

Healthy Heifer

Led by Cambridge Animal Technologies Limited in Cambridge.

Developing a precision solution to improve heifer rearing for increased productivity across the dairy sector.

Partner: Agri-Epi Centre Ltd.

Evaluating novel green fertilisers with carbon capture technology

Led by CCm Research in Swindon.

Project aims to evaluate how effective sustainable fertilisers are in terms of providing nutrients to crops. This will be achieved through field scale trials as well as erosion studies.

Partner: Cranfield University.

Macromolecular crowding to increase cellular meat production

Led by 3D Bio-Tissues in Newcastle.

Developing solutions that will increase efficiency of animal-free meat production.

Partner: Centre for Process Innovation Ltd.

Smart Sheep

Led by Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh.

Will develop precision livestock farming techniques and sustainable sheep production.

Partners include:

  • Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • Synergy Farm Health Ltd
  • Datamars Agri UK Ltd
  • 5 Agri  LLP
  • Nighthawk Software Ltd.

Production facility for insect-based products

Led by Entec Nutrition in Truro.

Will design a highly efficient, cost effective insect rearing facility to further the development and adoption of farmed insects as a sustainable animal feed source.

Partners include:

  • Campden BRI Ltd
  • University of Exeter.

Improving leg health and reproductive performance in commercial duck breeding flocks

Led by Cherry Valley Farms Ltd in Grimsby.

Will combine technologies including sensors, image recognition and genomic pedigree to improve reproduction and welfare at both the genetic level and commercial population level.

Partners include:

  • Hudson & Sanders Ltd
  • University of Edinburgh.

Biopesticide for cabbage stem flea beetle

Led by Crop Health and Protection in Yorkshire.

Will develop an innovative biopesticide technology for the control of cabbage stem flea beetle in oilseed rape.

Partners include:

  • Russell Bio Solutions Ltd
  • CAB International.

Reduce waste and emissions in commercial raspberry production

Led by Netafim UK Ltd in Skelmersdale.

Will integrate nutrient demand models and AI-based sensors with precision-dosing rigs to improve resource use and productivity in commercial raspberry production.

Partners include:

  • Environmental Monitoring Solutions Ltd
  • National Institute of Agricultural Botany
  • Berry Gardens Growers Ltd.

Net Zero poultry house

Led by Moy Park Ltd in Craigavon.

Will develop and evaluate new approaches to poultry housing and management that result in improved animal well-being and performance as well as improved energy and resource efficiency.

Partners include:

  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • JF McKenna Ltd.

Automating milk sampling testing

Led by Davlec based in Welshpool.

Will assess the commercial and technical feasibility of installing an automated milk sampling and reproduction testing system in a traditional milking parlour.

Partner: Clarity Biosolutions Ltd.

Diagnostic platform for infections in cattle

Led by RAFT Solutions in Ripon.

Will assess the feasibility of adapting existing diagnostic systems to detect protozoan parasites, alongside developing automated image for immediate diagnosis using fresh faecal samples.

Partner: Techion (UK) Ltd.

AI-powered augmented reality tool for animal health and productivity

Led by Agri-EPI centre, one of the UK Agri-Tech centres.

Will integrate multiple data-streams from technology platforms deployed on dairy farms, using AI and augmented reality to identify an individual cow and access its data.

Partners include:

  • Abertay University
  • FarmVets Southwest Ltd
  • Pocket Sized Hands Ltd.

Mothnet

Led by AGSENZE in Lancaster.

Will develop novel approaches to enable fully automated smart monitoring of the codling moth.

Partner: International Pheromone Systems Ltd.

Growing sensor and innovative transmission node for vertical farms

Led by Light Science Technologies Ltd in Derby.

Will develop an IoT precision data solution, for vertical farming to boost productivity and efficiency.

Partner: Nottingham Trent University.

Raspberry auxin soil and substrate protectant

Led by The James Hutton Institute in Dundee.

Will develop an innovative range of growth substrate additives to stimulate raspberry root growth and inhibit the growth and spread of root pathogens.

Partners include:

  • James Hutton Ltd
  • Thomas Thomson (Blairgowrie) Ltd
  • Westland Horticulture Limited.

Crover robot for the autonomous sampling of grain bulks

Led by Crover Ltd in Edinburgh.

Will create the first robotic device able to safely sample grain bulks at various depths and while still idle in storage.

Partners include:

  • Agri-EPI Centre Ltd
  • East of Scotland Farmers Ltd.

A robot-enabled, data-driven machine vision tool for nitrogen diagnosis of arable soils

Led by Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester.

Will co-develop a cost-effective, non-destructive, robot enabled, data driven, machine vision solution to monitor nitrogen levels in soil by harnessing disruptive technologies.

Partners include:

  • GMV Innovating Solutions Ltd
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

PRUEX

Led by Harper Adams University in Newport.

Will test the feasibility of a robot to apply microbial cleansers to poultry houses to improve both the environmental impacts of poultry production and animal welfare.

Partners include:

  • Ross Robotics Ltd
  • Hudson & Sanders Ltd
  • Pruex Ltd.

Advanced breeding and metabolic indicator technology for the dairy and beef industries

Led by Clarity BioSolutions in Salisbury.

Will develop systems to drive productivity in ruminant production systems by enhancing decision support with a precision livestock farming technology solution.

Partner: Raft Solutions Ltd.

Enhanced animal behavioural analytics for improved cattle welfare, health, productivity and sustainability

Led by Quant Foundry Ltd in London.

Will develop a system for the identification of anomalous cattle behaviour to aid in the rapid identification of different ailments. The solution combines AI-driven video analytics of animals within an automated farm framework.

Partners include:

  • Agri-EPI Centre Ltd
  • University of Bristol.

Dairy production sensors

Led by Scotland’s Rural College in Edinburgh.

Will identifying best sensor technologies to deliver verifiable health, welfare and environmental benefits for dairy production.

Partners include:

  • University of Strathclyde
  • First Milk Ltd
  • Nestle UK Ltd.

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