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NEWS: NIAB CUF Potato forecasting tool wins OFC/RASE Practice with Science Award

08 January 2014

Oxford farming Conference

A potato modelling system, which forecasts yield and tuber size, has won the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) and Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) Practice with Science Award. Developed by NIAB CUF, the tool can supply valuable data to the entire potato supply chain, to aid both in-field and processing practices as well as reporting. 

Sponsored by AB Agri, the award prize money totals £10,000 which, according to the project's leader David Firman, will be used to further enhance data automation and simulation modelling.

Commenting on NIAB’s win, John Giles, an Oxford Farming Conference Director, said: "The judges were impressed by this technically pioneering project and by its established uptake by some of the major players in the potato chain."

At an agronomic level, the system's modeling allows growers to calculate seed rates and a crop's irrigation needs; whilst for businesses closer to the retailer, the data can be used to determine total yields as well as the impact of delayed harvests on tuber size. "The marketing data, in particular, is hugely valuable for communicating expected harvest quantities, tuber size and delivery dates through to end customers. The value of the service for the whole potato supply chain is really what secured this as the winning entry."

The Practice with Science Award was set up in 2010 to recognise applied scientific work that has resulted in valuable benefits to the agricultural industry, particularly in relation to on-farm practices.

Mr Giles added that "this award addresses a fundamental need for agriculture because it bridges the big gap between the science-driven innovation farmers need on the ground, and the 'leading edge science' work being done in research institutions. NIAB CUF was selected because their work has added direct and measurable benefits to growers as well as supplying just-in-time data to the supply trade."

The runner up in the 2014 Practice with Science Award was the eBolus, developed by design engineer Seonaid Nimmo of eCow Ltd; this project was also runner up in 2013. The eBolus is used to monitor rumen pH and temperature, and works wirelessly to alert herd managers to any fluctuations in the rumen environment, acidosis and issues like mycotoxin levels in maize silage.

The Award is funded by the OFC and the RASE, with additional sponsored support from AB Agri. It aims to recognise the following areas of research merit:

  • Novel and original application
  • Clear economic benefit to the industry, food chain and consumers
  • Improved sustainability through the more efficient use of resources

The £10,000 prize, is made up of £3,000, funded by AB Agri, awarded to the individual and £7,000, funded by the RASE and the OFC, to the institution or business at which the R&D team or individual is based.  The latter monies must be used to support further research work on the subject, through the support of a studentship, traineeship or the purchase of a piece of research equipment.

NIAB CUF acknowledge and thank Potato Council Limited (PCL) for funding and contributions made to this project. 

Read more about the the use of pototo crop modelling http://www.ofc.org.uk/files/ofc/papers/ofc-science-award-winner-presentation.pdf