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The farming industry is coming under unprecedented pressure as the population grows and climate change threatens our world. Farmers need to produce more crops, milk and meat using fewer resources while still remaining profitable. To help with this challenge, the government has awarded £17.5m to launch a new agricultural technology centre, Agri-EPI, with a further £17.5m pledged by industry. The new Centre, which includes new unique facilities at Cranfield, will work with businesses and universities to develop cutting-edge innovations such as drones (unmanned and automated vehicles and equipment), precision engineering solutions and state-of the-art intelligence systems.

Because of the highly technical nature of modern farming Agri-EPI has brought in a diverse range of expertise from the UK’s world-leading engineering sector including aerospace, motorsport, defence and more. It will draw on the engineering prowess of Williams Advanced Engineering, JCB, and Boeing alongside the food business wisdom of supermarkets Morrisons and Marks and Spencer and food producers including McCain and others. These are just some of the 65 plus contributors from industry which will complement the work of core members in the Centre, three of the UK’s top agricultural institutions (Cranfield University, Harper Adams University and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and major agricultural businesses (Harbro Ltd, AgSpace Agriculture Ltd and Kingshay Farming & Conservation Ltd). 

A central feature of the Centre will be a series of farms and technology facilities equipped with advanced bioengineering, robotics and artificial intelligence systems. These ‘future farms’ will inform research direction and provide ‘show and tell’ locations to develop and demonstrate technologies to UK producers, supporting the rapidly expanding global market for these technologies. 

Project Lead, Willie Thomson of Harbro Ltd, said: “In five years’ time this quickly growing sector will be worth £2.3 billion globally and Agri-EPI intends to help drive that growth, supporting innovative ideas which will help farmers and agri-businesses develop and grow in this challenging time.” 

Professor Leon Terry, Director of Agrifood at Cranfield University, said: “Agri-EPI is an exciting opportunity for Cranfield to lead the move to more technologically advanced agriculture. It will introduce new and unique facilities based at Cranfield including a sensor development laboratory and associated diagnostic capabilities. We will also be a hub for five instrumented satellite farms – developing effective technologies for the whole sector.”

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Agrifood at Cranfield

Agrifood has been a key strategic theme at Cranfield University for over 40 years. We have internationally recognised expertise across both domestic and international food supply chains from primary food production, inputs - soil, plants and water, through to point of sale, waste reduction and applied informatics.

Students work closely with our partners in industry, Government or the NGO sector. We understand our clients’ challenges because more than 80% of the University’s business comes from sources other than Government. Most of our academic staff have spent considerable portions of their career in industry or Government, and are especially solution-oriented. We delight in assembling pan-University teams of experts from across our skill sets, often in collaboration with other Universities, and consultants, to meet challenges that fall outside the conventional academic disciplines.