The future challenges facing the food industry, and how working with researchers can help overcome these issues, was discussed at the launch of the new Essex Plant Innovation Centre (EPIC).
EPIC, based at the University of Essex, will bring together the best of its academic work in life sciences, computer science and electronic engineering, data science and business, with innovative regional agri-tech companies and public sector organisations to address the grand challenges facing farmers, technologists and all those in the agricultural and horticultural sectors.
At the launch event, held at the University’s new £18m STEM building, researchers met with key industry leaders to discuss how they could work together to influence and shape East Anglia’s response to various agri-tech challenges, such as delivery of secure and resilient food systems, supported by sustainable marine resources and agriculture.
Speaking at the launch, the Director of EPIC Professor Tracy Lawson said: “The centre will provide an opportunity to explore new opportunities to engage with industry and we are delighted to see so many key people from the food industry here today. We want our experts to interact with industries and technologists in the agricultural and horticultural sectors to address real-world problems in these areas.”
She added: “Some of the key challenges in this area include improving soil health, increase crop productivity in a changing environment as well as addressing some of the challenges posed by the possible changes in work forces and labour in the sector. Our expertise in plant soil microbial interactions, plant productivity, robotics, artificial intelligence and data analytics could provide solutions to these issues.”
Professor Christine Raines, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), said: “Today’s launch of EPIC was a great opportunity to bring together our leading researchers in the areas of plant and soil sciences, computer science and data analytics together with business in the agri-tech sector. Of 80 participants at the event today we had over 40 attendees from business and enterprise. This is the start of an exciting journey, creating collaborative networks between leading researchers and business for the benefit of society.”