Three months after my first visit to the Milan Expo for the Agri-tech GREAT Week, at the start of October I returned to Milan for another UKTI-led Agri-tech Expo event. This time the focus was on exploiting innovation across sectors: Game Changing Technologies for Agriculture.
Whilst the weather was very different to how it had been in July (rainy but much comfortably cooler), the quality of the Agri-tech event was as high as before. There were a large number of businesses at the event, representing a wide range of sectors including finance, automotive and aerospace. Discussions focused on how game changing technologies can be applied to agriculture and it was inspiring to hear about so many opportunities for exciting partnerships. Potential solutions to food production challenges included applying technologies used in Formula 1 cars, utilising the potential of smart phones and using cognitive robots. The technologies covered are at different stages of development but the clear and consistent message was that there is huge potential to collaborate across sectors and a real appetite to do so.
Before travelling back to London, the following morning I attended Sainsbury’s suppliers’ conference. Although focused on the company’s challenges and opportunities, there were discussions on a range of issues pertinent to agri-tech, including supply chains, maximising efficiencies, sustainability and partnerships; as well as how Sainsbury’s contributes to wider Government objectives, from economic growth to tackling modern slavery.
As summed up by Professor Janet Bainbridge, CEO of the UKTI Agri-tech Organisation, as she closed the Agri-tech innovation event, the challenge is how best to follow up on the fantastic opportunities we heard about. This includes focusing on continued business engagement and building on the momentum and enthusiasm fostered by such a positive event. There is a lot to do to ensure that this happens. However, this is a hugely exciting time for agri-tech: round 5 of the Agri-tech Catalyst is open, with 77 innovative and collaborative projects already funded, and Agricultural Centres for Innovation will be announced before the end of the year. Therefore, there is a great opportunity to realise the significant potential and ensure the agri-tech sector flourishes.