A leading grower is working with the University of Essex to maximise the success of its crops through remote sensing.

G's Growers - which operates across Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire - is working with top academics to revolutionise agricultural practices in East Anglia and the UK.

The aim is to improve understanding of its crops and the nutrients they need at each stage of the growing process.

As part of Innovate UK’s Accelerated Knowledge Transfer (AKT) programme, G’s Growers will work with Dr Amanda Cavanagh and Dr John Ferguson from the School of Life Sciences to find a non-destructive, remote-sensing detection system.

Current practice focuses on detecting crop disease rather than crop health - with lengthy delays in getting lab results back.

Under the scheme, the analysis process will be speeded up, allowing farmers to respond more quickly to different types of crop stress.

The need for speed is being driven by climate change, regulations around pesticides and financial pressures caused by rising fertiliser prices.

Dr Juan Antonio Martínez León, head of product analytics and data science at G’s Growers, said the new approach should result in less need for chemical applications. 

“An improved understanding of our crop’s heath will help us to make better decisions in the use of nutrition and empower the crop to be more effective in the way it naturally deals with pest and diseases - thus reducing the need of crop protection products.”

Four other companies have also been awarded Innovate UK funding to work with Essex under the AKT programme.

They include Colchester-based community organisation Changing Lives Community Services CIC.

That study involves researchers looking for empirical evidence that playing competitive football can have a positive impact on refugees’ mental and physical health.

Other AKT projects are being run with mobile-app only bank Atom bank, planning specialists Iceni Projects and tech security firm Glasswall.

The university's head of business engagement Rob Walker said they were "thrilled" to have secured funding from Innovate UK for multiple Accelerated Knowledge Transfer projects.

"These shorter, more tactical funds help lay the groundwork for broader collaborations, enhance a business’s understanding of collaborative potentials, and provide a low-risk opportunity to innovate new products, services, or concepts," he said.  

"Across 2024 we plan to secure further funding in this space, and we’d love to hear from industry on how they can leverage this opportunity.”