Highlights and outcomes from June’s event supporting early adoption of new agricultural technology.

On 25th June 2019, KTN hosted an event to support engagement between agri-tech companies and end-users. This event was organised in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield.

The over-subscribed event brought together representatives from industry, academia, the farming community, funding agencies and government. Capacity was originally capped at 70 participants, but was increased to accommodate 125 attendees due to interest.

On the day

In the morning, participants discussed the social aspects of innovation. This included potential barriers to translation, behaviours underpinning adoption and successful examples of innovation pathways. Speakers also explained the types of financial support available to farmers and growers to engage with the innovation process and noted several examples of successful farmer-driven initiatives.

In the months leading up to the event, members of the KTN Agri-food team recruited agri-tech SMEs with an interest in connecting to end-users. The team then introduced them to relevant groups and networks. Talks during the afternoon explored the benefits and challenges encountered during these KTN-initiated pilot studies. The final talks of the day were dedicated to raising the profile of end-user networks in the UK, understanding the scope of their activities and learning how they can support innovation and technological development.

The drive behind the event

This was the fourth annual agri-tech event hosted by KTN and the University of Sheffield. The theme follows on from discussions held during the 2018 joint event (‘Driving engagement, innovation and impact in plant science’). Participants had noted that the successful translation of novel ideas and technology in agriculture requires the ongoing involvement of farmers and growers Рand that engagement with these groups has often been lacking and/or haphazard.

An additional driver for the event was the 2018 release of the ‘Pre-Competitive Vision for the UK’s Plant and Crop Sector’ booklet. In the booklet, KTN’s Plant Sector Advisory Board highlighted the pressing need for increased farmer participatory research, encouraging communication and collaboration between scientists and farmers/growers, and
building capabilities around research and/or satellite farms.

Key actions for the future

Key actions following on from this event will include:

  • producing a ‚Äòwhite paper‚Äô to highlight best practice and key findings;
  • continued monitoring of KTN-initiated case studies;
  • reviewing approaches used in introducing SMEs and end-user groups;
  • supporting additional introductions between SMEs and end-users;
  • updating the KTN AgriFood Landscape Tool to incorporate end-user networks;
  • providing input into other upcoming workshops focused on end-user engagement.

Thank you to all the speakers and participants who contributed to the success of this event.

For more information, please contact Chris Danks or Kaeli Johnson.

What people are saying about the event

‚ÄúThe Institute for Sustainable Food was delighted to host the 4th annual conference event run jointly between the University of Sheffield and the KTN. This year’s topic on Agritech Innovations garnered a lot of interest from all quarters of the agriculture and food sector, reflecting how essential this topic is to the future resilience of the UK agricultural industry. The feeling in the room was that currently innovation is difficult, and if the sector doesn’t innovate more effectively, it risks stagnation. As a research institute, we realise the importance of our role in the innovation pipeline and will continue to work with excellent partners like the KTN to translate our knowledge into new solutions to agricultural
challenges.” Professor Duncan Cameron, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Food at the
University of Sheffield

“A well timed and thought-provoking session addressing one of the key areas facing the ag tech sector – how to get more technology being used on farms. The session highlighted the complexity of factors surrounding farmer’s adoption of new
technology, but also highlighted a number of successful programmes from ADAS’s YEN to work by Innovative Farmers. The event also highlighted the importance of really engaging with farmers early in the development process to ensure products meet customer needs – in the old days we called this ‘market research’ – today process has evolved into a more
holistic approach called ‘human centered design’. The presentations reminded participants that it is often too easy for innovators and others to label the farmers as the problem, when in many cases it is the technology that is the problem. Like any consumer, farmers are looking for products that are simple to use, effective and reliable. New agri-tech is often too complex, too hard to use, less than reliable and only addresses part of the problem faced by farmers.”
Andrew McLay, Innovation Lead – Agriculture & Food at Innovate UK

“The KTN Sheffield event was a great opportunity for us to broaden SAOS’s reach to organisations, speakers and concepts Рall with great potential to add value to our agri co-ops in Scotland. We’ve already followed up with six speakers and delegates since the event and plan to build on these connections. Of particular interest to me was the interconnecting
themes around co-innovation and the value of data.” Helen Glass, Business Development Manager at the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)

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