Earlier this month, the annual Norfolk Farming Conference was held at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. A key event in the agricultural calendar, the conference focused on the future of the farming industry and the role that technology and innovation will play in overcoming challenges including productivity and sustainability.
George Eustice, Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment, attended the event to give a keynote presentation on innovation in the farming industry.
The Minister stressed the importance of the region to the agri-tech sector:
Norfolk is leading the way in developing and using exciting, new technologies in farming, from growing new types of animal feed to using data to ensure the healthiest soils for crops.
We want to see our agriculture sector grow, become more competitive and more profitable, taking innovations from the laboratory to the farm.
Centres of excellence like the John Innes Centre and the Sainsbury’s Laboratory will play a crucial role in realising this ambition.
The Minister also highlighted success stories that demonstrate Norfolk’s ability to break new ground across the farming industry. These included:
- The Norwich Rust Group, a partnership of seven scientific teams, are leading a project to investigate the prevention of a parasite which feeds off crops. Currently this parasite causes billions of pounds worth of loss world-wide each year.
- A partnership between the John Innes Centre, Harper Adams University and Rothamsted Research is working to better understand the impact of crop growth on soil health. The ultimate aim is to identify the right plants to grow at the right time.
- Scientists from the John Innes Centre have developed a type of pea for animal feed which will aid animal digestion by helping them absorb more protein. In addition to helping animals get more from their feed, better protein digestion in livestock also decreases the nitrogen content of livestock manure which could have environmental benefits.
George Freeman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences, delivered his speech to the conference by video message. The Minister outlined the Government’s commitment to agri-tech, highlighting the recent investments in the Centres for Agricultural Innovation and the Agri-tech Catalyst. You can watch his speech below.