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Guest blog: How is the agriculture sector using technology to navigate COVID-19?

The agriculture industry has had to adapt and innovate due to the changes caused by the global coronavirus lockdown. Ben Thompson, Agri-Tech Centre Manager at Hartpury University and Hartpury College, explains how the role of the Agri-Tech Centre has adjusted due to the changes.

I write to you from my home, like many others following the guidance set by the UK Government whilst still making the most of the weather. With the Hartpury University and Hartpury College campus closed, our support services and teaching has seamlessly transitioned to online platforms.

Technology has been a revelation

Whilst we still face unprecedented times, technology in all forms has proven to be a revelation for supporting the agricultural industry. Allowing communication, service, support and advice to still be carried out as efficiently as possible.

The knock-on effects of Covid-19 for UK agriculture including restrictive borders, panic buying, labour shortage, and market fluctuations to name a few has diverted our focus to not only riding out the current storm but also looking at sustainability strategies as preparation for any future global issues.

One of the strategies highlighted has been improving the access to technology for agricultural businesses and accelerating the development of future products and services. This only emphasises the importance of the work needed and carried out by the Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre.

Tech Talk Week

My work certainly hasn’t slowed down during these unprecedented times. On top of the increased calls and emails, we have recently completed our Tech Talk Week – an open phone line to the Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre for farmers, businesses, and the general public to share their views and learn something new about Agri-Tech use and adoption.

Some would say that innovation is about turning heads and to quote Henry Ford “if we asked the people what they wanted, they would just ask for faster horses”. I agree with this, however, within the agriculture industry it is also about improving communication and market insight between research/innovation work and commercial practice. Through improving communication, we will ultimately see more robust and viable products in the future, backed by the latest understanding of user pressures including policy changes, market changes, disease risks, and the list goes on!

Key workers in the agriculture sector

As a result of Covid-19, those who work within the UK agriculture industry were rightly recognised as key workers. Offering a window of opportunity to show consumers the hard work and high production standards that contribute to British produce. On top of this, technology offers the opportunity to collect marketable production data from throughout the supply chain, providing more information to the ever curious consumer. This is why I urge farmers and processors when speaking to them to hold on to this information if collected, or to start seeing where they can integrate technology to start collecting this data for production and market benefits.

I would like to sign off by saying a huge thank you to all key workers and I hope everyone stays safe. I would also like to share a quote from Captain Tom Moore “We will get through this and come out of it stronger, more united and ready to face any challenge together.”

More information

This blog was guest-written by Ben Thompson, Agri-Tech Centre Manager, Hartpury University and Hartpury College.

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