Business context

G’s Growers is an independent producer organisation comprising 16 grower members in the UK. Their crop range includes wholehead and babyleaf salad, celery, radish, onions, salad onions, beetroot and mushrooms.

The company aims to be the premier producer of various food crops in the UK, and their main route to achieving this objective is to drive up the quality and volume of crops that can be grown on a finite amount of land, using fewer costly resources while reducing their environmental impact.

Steps have already been taken towards improving their farming methods by developing capability in remote sensing via UAVs and multispectral cameras. Building on these foundations, the company sought to develop new capability in data science to enable the team to interpret and utilise the data gathered by their remote sensing systems

G's produces millions of iceberg lettuces per year, but only around 75% of those sown end up achieving retail quality in terms of weight, shape and consistency. This results in excess costs and inefficient use of resources, impacting both profitability and the environment.

Research solution 

G’s partnered with the Institute for Analytics and Data Science at Essex and through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) brought in leading AI, data science and data analytics expertise from Dr Ana Matrán-Fernández, Dr Spyros Samothrakis, and Dr David Clark. This KTP also provides G’s with access to experts at the University's Essex Plant Innovation Centre for insights into environmental factors and biological processes.

The KTP project aims to develop an intelligent simulator system to apply new techniques in data science to the challenge of predicting and managing variance in G’s key iceberg lettuce crop.

The machine learning-driven simulator will be used to model growing conditions and interventions, such as the application of pesticides, and predict which actions will produce the highest yield of uniform, saleable crop.

Business value

Thanks to the KTP, G’s is now a step closer towards building a data science team within the organisation. The new knowledge and capability gained through the project will be embedded within this new team.

The KTP will also help achieve more environmentally sustainable crop production. This will deliver a positive environmental impact for the UK’s soils, water, and biodiversity, and will support the nation’s regenerative agriculture strategy.

Improving G’s iceberg lettuce crop yields (and other crops as the technology is rolled out) through precision farming methods will not only increase national food security, it will also reduce the carbon footprint associated with both UK production and the importation of produce from Europe and further afield. 

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Innovate UK funding

Essex has successfully secured more Innovate UK KTP funding than any other university in the East of England or London (and we're number 1 in the UK). You could access around £150k through this program or equally partner with us on a Smart grant and secure up to £3m to work with a consortia on your project. Essex will lead the entire process and have a sector-leading track record at winning this funding. All projects are commercially driven and underpinned by world class research from Essex.

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