Ministerial visit to Agritech Hub highlights data potential

Defra Minister discusses data-driven innovation and capability of genetic technologies at the Easter Bush Agritech Hub.

Jo Churchill, Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation at the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), visited the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Agritech Hub on 26 April.

During the visit, the Minister met with senior staff including Professor David Argyle, Head of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, and Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Director of the Roslin Institute, touring some of the world-leading facilities on campus.

The group discussed the potential of data-driven innovation to improve the efficiency of food production, accelerate the path to zero carbon, and reduce emissions – with a view to ensuring animal health, robustness and welfare.


Jo Churchill, Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation said:

“I’m grateful to my hosts at the Easter Bush Agritech Hub for showing me an example of the creative ways the UK is unlocking innovation and research into projects that improve profitability and boost environmental sustainability.

“The UK Government is committed to supporting this collective endeavour. That’s why we are investing in ground-breaking technologies through our Farming Innovation Programme and working with the industry to deliver our new future farming policy, which will promote sustainable food production whilst delivering for the environment.”

While onsite, the Minister saw gene-edited cattle with improved heat tolerance. This scientific technique was used in a study by researchers from the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH) at the Roslin Institute. It could benefit cattle in tropical low- and middle-income countries, where increased temperatures associated with climate change have negative impacts on animal welfare, productivity and immunity.

Vibrant innovation environment

The Easter Bush Agritech Hub is a dynamic and vibrant innovation environment. World-class facilities equipped with the latest technologies support Europe’s largest concentration of animal science research experts and clinicians, as well as co-located industrial partners in the custom-built Roslin Innovation Centre. In partnership with the Edinburgh International Data Facility delivering exascale supercomputing at Easter Bush, the Agritech Hub will propel data-led decision making in the Agritech sector.

Minister Churchill visited the Roslin Institute, a world-leader in animal bioscience research; the Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility (LARIF), which provides insights into livestock and human health through the study of large animals; and the Roslin Innovation Centre, which provides laboratory and office space for animal and veterinary science start-up companies.

Ahead of her visit, the minister opened the A3 Scotland Conference on Animal Health, Agritech and Aquaculture, with a focus on net zero.

Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Director, Roslin Institute, said, “We were delighted to host Jo Churchill at the Agritech Hub to discuss data-driven innovation and explore how we can work with Defra to unlock national data assets. The unique concentration of expertise and capabilities we have at Easter Bush enables us to be truly innovative in our approach to many of the world’s most pressing problems around hunger, nutrition, disease and planetary health.”

About the Easter Bush Agritech Hub

An efficient agricultural sector is critical to social wellbeing; by 2050, global agricultural production will need to increase by 50 per cent to feed a growing global population. By applying data technologies that enable farmers and related industries to improve food production and veterinary care, digital agriculture – known as agritech – will be critical to increasing global food supply.

The Easter Bush Agritech Hub is one of six data-driven innovation hubs at the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University, which have received government investment via the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

The hub seeks to leverage existing world-class research institutes and commercialisation facilities to become a global centre of Agritech and veterinary excellence. It boasts a campus-wide network that can generate and collate, in real time, a multitude of local and global data, such as veterinary activities, animal genetics, food species genetics, soil condition, weather and market drivers.

It can also collaborate with partners, using this information to realise the potential of having the right food species, and the right products, in the right field at the right time, to maximise agricultural productivity.

Related links

Data-Driven Innovation: the Easter Bush Agritech Hub

Genetic tool could improve heat tolerance in cattle

Large Animal Research and Imaging Facility

A3 Scotland Conference

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