17 March 2022

Dorset’s One Health 2022 conference showcases agritech innovation

Dorset’s One Health 2022 conference showcases agritech innovation

Hosted by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Kingston Maurward College near Dorchester, One Health 2022 brought more than 60 senior decision makers from academia, industry, and government together for a day of advice, knowledge sharing and planning.   

One Health is a globally recognised term that describes the interdependence between the health of humans, animals, plants and natural ecosystems and this formed the basis for the days agenda which explored how this can inform innovation in the rapidly growing field of agricultural technology, or agritech.

The conference saw the launch of a one-year programme, the One Health Nucleus Pilot, designed to offer a formal structure of wraparound support for businesses already in or seeking to develop projects and ideas related to the One Health agenda.

Next steps in the development of agritech across the South West also formed part of discussions, including how businesses involved in activities such as aquaculture, food technology and clean growth can leverage export opportunities opened up by emerging free trade agreements with markets worldwide.

Dorset LEP is a member of a steering group, South West AgriTech, which seeks to champion business support and opportunities. The group has recently published analysis putting the current number of agritech jobs in Dorset at around 700 and the sector’s economic value at £108 million.

Opening the conference, Dorset LEP’s Chair Cecilia Bufton said One Health was an integral part of Dorset's economic and public health strategies, adding: “We have an ambition to make Dorset a One Health nucleus, within a sustainable, commercial One Health regional powerhouse, contributing to a green, clean global UK offer.”

Cecilia then introduced Kingston Maurward’s Chief Executive and Principal Luke Rake, the One Health lead on Dorset LEP’s Board. He explained how recent investments in College facilities and assets will increasingly support essential agritech skills regionally and nationally.

Likening Dorset to a ‘living laboratory’ for One Health and agritech, Luke highlighted the development of the on-campus university centre and rural business hub with plans to incubate and accelerate a pipeline of 40 high-worth, clean-growth rural businesses by 2030.

As well as Kingston Maurward, investment projects supported by Dorset LEP at the Dorset Innovation Park at Winfrith Newburgh were also praised for boosting the agritech sector. Among the businesses presenting at the conference was draperGROUP, which is headquartered on the Park and provides sustainable temperature control systems for livestock production.

Founder and Director Paul Draper outlined how the company has grown since 2008 when it installed the UK’s first hot water heating system for livestock using a hybrid biomass and LPG boiler solution.

Now, around 500 poultry sheds nationally rely on draperGROUP renewable heating systems and equipment, saving more than 300 million kilowatt hours of fossil fuel usage, or 65,000 tonnes of carbon, every year.      

Global efforts to ensure the deforestation-free sourcing of supermarket products made with palm oil and soya were highlighted by Lucy Cullinane, Operations Director of Efeca. Operating from Bournemouth and Dorchester, Efeca provides advice and support on sustainable sourcing of natural resources to businesses, governments and NGOs. 

Further conference presentations included updates on how agritech innovation is supporting regenerative farming, crop health and protection, pollination, the collation of data metrics on yields, the deployment of technology in precision agricultural engineering, the formulation of animal feeds and supplements and the quality monitoring of milk and other dairy products.  

Adam Smith, Managing Director of special R&D company Intrepid Minds, another business operating from the Dorset Innovation Park, discussed their latest 5G enabled automated tractor technology while Professor Mathew Upton of the University of Plymouth outlined recent advances in how vaccines can address antimicrobial resistance to improve agricultural production.    

Delegates also heard how the agricultural sector will increasingly benefit from the rollout of 5G broadband across rural Dorset.

Keynote speakers, both strongly encouraging the growth of the agritech sector, were Professor Guy Poppy CB from the University of Southampton and Professor Mick Fuller from the University of Plymouth.

The conference was the fourth such annual event hosted on the theme of One Health by Dorset LEP. It ended with advice for agritech businesses on how to access support from the new One Health Nucleus Pilot.

For more information on business support from Dorset LEP and its growth hub Dorset Gateway, and the One Health Nucleus Pilot, visit https://www.dorsetlep.co.uk/one-health

For more economic data on agritech, the steering group South West AgriTech has produced a positioning paper on progress and opportunities.


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