As a postgraduate only, research-intensive university, Cranfield delivers solutions by applying cutting-edge scientific expertise to the current and future challenges faced by agribusiness and our farming landscape.
In 2013, the UK Government launched its Agricultural technologies strategy. As part of this commitment, investment by the UK Government and Cranfield University in two new Centres for Agricultural Innovation at Cranfield, Agri-EPI and CHAP, totals £10m. The facilities will combine our research and development capabilities in agriculture, in multiple configurations, to address the importance of soil resources and sensing and analysis of big-data.
The Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-EPI) will be a world-leading centre for excellence in engineering and precision agriculture in the livestock, arable, aquaculture and horticulture sectors. Agri-EPI is a new global hub for agricultural engineering and precision farming, operating over multiple sites including a main hub at Cranfield.
Facilities, including a LemnaTec overhead phenotyping platform, will allow new sensors and sensor protocols to be developed and tested in controlled soil-crop systems and on commercial farms associated with Agri-EPI. Data will be fed to a central data hub and used to research the optimum data collection and analysis routines to direct farm management. Facilities will include a sensor laboratory and sensors deployed on associated commercial farms.
The new Centre 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.
About Crop Health and Protection (CHAP)
CHAP will lead the way in developing solutions to the challenges facing world agriculture, bringing together the best expertise, knowledge and insight from leading research organisations and industries in the sector.
It is designed to make sure that the knowledge and insight from the UK’s science base is translated into benefits for farmers, growers and the food industry both at home and abroad.
Facilities will demonstrate at a pilot scale how soil properties can be altered by tillage techniques in soil-crop systems to test the effects of soil condition on, for example: agrochemical dynamics; nutrient and water use; crop establishment; root and canopy development and crop yield; soil health and degradation; soil-borne diseases; weed control; and crop genotype × soil interactions.
The new facilities will allow crop growth trials to be conducted in 24 containers (1.0 m3 or 0.5 m3) large enough to simulate controlled field conditions (including drainage). Soil can be packed to manipulate soil physical conditions, including bulk density, soil strength and surface properties.
CHAP's Soil Health Facility at Cranfield offers real-time, pilot-scale environmental simulation of soil-implement, soil-human and soil-plant water interactions in controllable test conditions. This will help inform on-farm decision making and the development of more efficient and sustainable methods of food production.
The Soil Health facilities at Cranfield will support agrifood businesses, agrochemical companies, seed companies and research providers.