Analytics and AI boost innovation for agriculture

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Teaming up to create industry impact

How much time, resources and money could farming industries save if they knew when and where the risk of pests was the highest and could take preventative methods before crop damage occurs? This is the kind of industry challenge we’re trying to tackle at the Hartree Centre, through our collaboration with IBM Research.

The Hartree Centre is a department within the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which in turn is part of UK Research and Innovation. We specialize in helping UK companies take advantage of advanced technologies such as high performance computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence, or AI.

Since 2016, we have been working with IBM through a partnership known as the Innovation Return on Research (IROR) programme, where we are creating digital assets through technologies and techniques including modelling, simulation, data analytics and AI.

The IBM Research team at the Hartree Centre works alongside our own scientific personnel in small, multidisciplinary teams focused on developing real-world solutions to particular challenges in key industry areas such as chemistry, life sciences, engineering and manufacturing.

Agriculture innovation through predictive analytics

One exciting example of IROR in action has researchers from STFC and IBM Research applying advanced computational modelling and data analytics to build cutting-edge applications for precision agriculture. The team is collaborating with industry partners to improve the accuracy of pest risk prediction, and have created a proof of concept geospatial platform using IBM PAIRS technology, incorporating vertical-looking radar and weather data with simulations of individual insect responses to weather and interactions within a swarm. This could help businesses in the agricultural sector to plan preventative measures and reduce crop losses by generating accurate pest forecasts. It also has the potential to reduce overall pesticide use, to further protect our environment.

A new approach to digital innovation

With 20+ digital assets consisting of 155+ components currently under development, IROR is changing the way we look at industry challenges and discover solutions. The program brings together emerging technology, research expertise and ongoing industrial engagement to develop solutions that are accessible and consumable, even to non-expert users. This process demonstrates potential value to industry before asking for full investment by providing access to innovative research and technology – creating an ideal safe environment to explore new technical applications and approaches risk-free. This allows real innovation at speed and can accelerate R&D processes no matter the sector.

The world-class scientific research, state of the art technology and skilled personnel based here at the Hartree Centre provide a winning combination that delivers competitive advantage to our industry partners and offers new insights into the interplay between research and innovation.


Director, Hartree Centre

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