Helen Dundas

How is the University of Edinburgh part of the fourth agricultural revolution and helping to provide food for all?

With a growing number of people suffering from malnutrition and chronic hunger, the United Nations FAO is predicting that by 2050 the world population is expected to rise by another 2.5 billion people. This is likely to create some major challenges for the planet: a 50% increase in demand for global agriculture production, with a particular demand for protein and dairy products. Against a backdrop of climate change, declining agricultural land availability, limited natural resources, aging workforces and skills shortages, the future of our agriculture is under threat.

Digital Agriculture – Agritech – will play a major part in meeting these threats. It has the capacity to transform every link in the chain from seed to fork, with innovations such as artificial intelligence, big data analysis, drone development, machine learning and robotics all allowing farmers to increase productivity.

The University of Edinburgh is well placed to be a global, digital centre of excellence in Agritech as part of the fourth agricultural revolution: building on world-leading research and teaching in Agriculture, Animal Health and Informatics, all underpinned by world-class data infrastructure to allow the secure and trustworthy hosting and analysis of big data.

In partnership with global breeding and animal health companies, farmers, veterinarians and government, I am supporting the University of Edinburgh to help deliver innovative tools to transform Agriculture. The future will be assured by projects such as genetic selection in novel crop and livestock breeding programmes, Internet of Things tools for farmers, and giving the right training to the next generation of entrepreneurs, animal scientists, veterinarians and agricultural policy makers.

To feed the world, Agritech must be deployed globally with commercial parties, and Scottish agriculture will have its part to play. A future strategy for Scottish Agriculture is required to evolve agricultural activity, provide a more holistic system across the rural and agricultural ecosystem and help pave the way for the challenges of the future.

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Helen Dundas is Agritech Innovation and Enterprise Lead, Roslin Innovation Centre

To feed the world, Agritech must be deployed globally with commercial parties, and Scottish agriculture will have its part to play

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