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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

IfLS collaboration could lead to improved global food security

Published: 5 April 2016
Image credit: Franz Wilhelm Franzel
Image credit: Franz Wilhelm Franzel istock photo 22490848

A partnership facilitated by the University of Southampton’s Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS) has had a successful bid approved for nearly £600,000 of government funding to help improve global food security.

A team of Southampton academics, led by IfLS member Professor Jeremy Frey, began developing collaborations with leading agriculture company Syngenta Limited following an IfLS network meeting last year.

Now the collaboration has been awarded its first joint project grant and will be working with agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO, as well as colleagues at the University of Aberystwyth.

The team, led by Syngenta, was one of 21 around the UK that will share in £17.8m of Agri-Tech Catalyst funding after winning a competition run by the UK’s innovation agency – Innovate UK. The competition targeted commercially promising new technologies that provide an economic boost to the UK agriculture technology sector by tackling challenges in agriculture.

The project Benchmark Scenario Planning in Primary Production: Creating Sustainable Change focuses on improving productivity and environmental sustainability. Significantly, the project will encompass growers in both developed and developing (smallholder) agriculture, working with UK farms and smallholder farmers and the AGCO Future Farm in Zambia as examples.

This research project will investigate methods for integration of data from a wide variety of sources and use data science and analytics to compare current and future performance across smallholdings and farms with similar features. Simple, secure interfaces will be developed to allow farmers to access the information.

Jeremy, who will lead Southampton academics Professor Simon Cox, Dr Thanassis Tiropanis and Dr Nicholas Gibbins in the data integration and analytics area of the project, said: “Farmers will be able to use this information to make informed decisions about crop plans. We need to develop simple, cheap technology that can also be scaled up to apply globally to all types of farmers.”

Leslie May, Solutions Innovation Head, from Syngenta, said: “Across the world we face growing issues of food security, nutrition and resource management while farmers are suffering from ‘data fatigue’. Our project focuses on improving outcomes in primary production and hence food security, by using advanced technologies to facilitate simplified decision-making for both productivity and environmental performance.

“The project will investigate historic, current and hypothetical data patterns to support farmers’ decision-making and have a positive impact on food security in a sustainable way.”

To find out more about the project contact Project Manager Shradha.Singh@syngenta.com

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