The agricultural sector is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of today’s global population. The United Nations has set a target to double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, and ensure food production systems are sustainable by implementing resilient agricultural practices by 2030.
The Agri-Tech Cornwall project is a step towards achieving these targets. The University of Plymouth are proud to be a partner on this £10 million part-funded ERDF initiative to help the United Kingdom become a world leader in agricultural technology and sustainability.
The University of Plymouth has a strong heritage and expertise in the agri-tech sector. Seale-Hayne Agricultural College merged with the University in 1989 when it was Plymouth Polytechnic. During this time, it significantly expanded its student numbers and agriculture related courses.
Since the University of Plymouth centralised its campus in 2002, staff have been integrated across the University into areas including business, science, engineering, health and medicine.
Researchers from the University of Plymouth will share their expertise with the sector and collaborate with small and medium-sized Cornish companies to research the future sustainability of the sector.
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide food for all, but with climate change increasing pressure on our food systems and an extra two billion people expected by 2050, it is up to us to rethink how we grow and consume our food.
Automated Brassica harvesting in Cornwall (ABC)
This project will develop robotic systems for automating manual picking operations in the horticultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The main crops for the project will be cauliflower, broccoli, kale and cabbage which are extensively grown in Cornwall. We want to demonstrate 'proof-of-concept' autonomous harvesting robots for horticultural crops that will help drive up productivity in the sector. The project will develop a two-handed robot test rig that will be built, and tested, under field conditions in Cornwall.
The FABSOIL (Fabricated Soil) project will support the development of the manufacture and analysis of artificial soils. It will develop artificial soils made from recycled and waste materials that are fertile and remain stable. Such soils, made from waste-streams, could provide new and exciting commercial possibilities and an excellent sustainable resource – especially in the face of widespread soil loss and destruction in many parts of the world. This could provide a material for major landscaping and land restoration projects that can often demand large quantities of ‘top soil’, with the added advantage of a ‘clean sheet’ with regards to plant pests and pathogens.
The project aims to help Cornish businesses research the added value for extracts of seaweeds, seawater and coastal plants towards skin care product development. We will work with local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to analyse the functional compositions of their current products and propose new formulations using the established skin simulation systems and testing platforms established at the University's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. The project will also work to identify new plants which have properties that Cornish SMEs can integrate into their products. We expect the project will accelerate business growth and develop new market and commercial opportunities.
Plant Factory, Cornwall
The project aims to facilitate the development and expansion of hydroponic, multi-tier controlled growing environments utilising renewable energy to provide low carbon semi-automated crop production for urban and rural settings. The project will apply existing and new technology to facilitate the development of a new model of horticultural propagation and growing, to develop new higher quality options for the horticultural sector tailored to the consumer market and with lower carbon supply options.
Dr Tim Daley
Associate Professor of Physical Geography
Ms Yve Metcalfe-Tyrrell
SEI ERDF Project Manager (Deep Geothermal & Agritec)
Dr Martin Stoelen
Lecturer in Robotics
Dr Mark Fitzsimons
Associate Professor (Reader) in Organic Geochemistry
Dr Bing Hu
Associate Professor (Reader) in Oral & Dental Health Research
Professor Mick Fuller