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Selby Technology Centre takes the lead in national research project

Experts from the fields of applied research, academia and farming have secured a £1.4 million funding award to commercialise innovative precision farming technology.

The team, comprising Dr Chantel Davies and Gavin Milson from Stockbridge Technology Centre Ltd, Dr Abdul Mouazen and Dr Lorenzo Menichetti from Cranfield University, and Andrew Manfield from Manterra Ltd, will spend three years researching unique fertiliser placement technology that will revolutionize the way that farmers apply fertilizer to a range of field vegetables and combinable crops.

The Tru-Nject project combines engineering and sensor solutions with satellite image data and unique fertiliser placement technology and has been co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board), with contributions from industry partners Stockbridge Technology Centre Ltd and Manterra Ltd.

Tru-Nject uses a variety of tools including soil data, satellite data, RTK-GPS auto steering and revolutionary new proximal soil sensors to apply fertiliser below ground that create a resource efficient way to apply nutrients whilst reducing the levels of nitrous oxide gas released from nitrogen fertilisers.

STC’s Dr Chantel Davies is the project lead and said: “The funding award from Innovate UK will enable us to combine a range of novel engineering solutions in a very practical way.

“Cranfield University has a firmly-established reputation for high-level research in soil science and precision agriculture; Manterra Ltd possesses cutting-edge and highly innovative farming equipment.

“By bringing together these key elements we are able to conduct large-scale field trials across a range of soil types and demonstrate the efficacy of the system.”

Dr Mouazen is the inventor of a new on-line soil sensor based on visible and near infrared spectroscopy, which will be used in the Tru-Nject project to analyse a broad range of abiotic soil properties.

This sensor was already used for optimising above ground N applications, with a cost benefit analysis showing a £50 per ha net margin to the farmer.

Andrew Manfield, from Manterra Ltd, is the applied farming research partner who supplies precision farm technology and agronomic expertise to the project. “This is a very exciting project.

“We have the potential to vary the nutrients on crops metre by metre and bed by bed, with an accuracy that is previously unheard of on a commercial level of practice.”

Philip Effingham of Greentech Consultancy Ltd is also a subcontractor providing agronomic advice on the field vegetables.

Last month, the Tru-Nject team was invited to address delegates at the Bishop Burton and Humber LEP hosted Agri-Food event that explored the skills needed for new technology.

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