I Know Food Yorkshire

This field lab is looking at how to design, develop and test potential new technologies to improve soil management, targeting of pesticide use, and to improve the nutritional quality of the food we grow.

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Field Lab Timeline

    3/14/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • Initial idea

    Initial idea
  • 11/9/2017 12:00:00 AM
  • Kick off meeting

    Kick off meeting
  • 2/1/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Key issues identified

    Key issues identified
  • 3/21/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Aims identified

    Aims identified
  • 7/1/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Start of tech development

    Start of tech development
  • 8/31/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Initial tech results

    Initial tech results
  • 10/31/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • Development and feedback

    Development and feedback
  • 3/15/2019 12:00:00 AM
  • Design of tech

    Design of tech
  • 8/31/2019 11:00:00 PM
  • On-farm tech trials

    On-farm tech trials
  • 3/1/2020 12:00:00 AM
  • Feedback meeting

    Feedback meeting
  • 9/14/2020 11:00:00 PM
  • Evaluation and review

    Evaluation and review
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    May 2020

    Third phase of the process

    This field lab is now nearing the end of it's third and final phase, which involves trialing the new technology and evaluating the process and innovations.

    Livestock database:
    The group co-developed a 'livestock database' app and installed this on the phones of the group. They found that the app is particularly useful when multiple employees on one farm want to record and share notes in one centralized place.

    Blood sampling application:
    This has generated considerable interest as a rapid on-farm diagnostic tool to help farmers assess whether new livestock arriving on the farm for diseases which easily spread in a herd. The labs are closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown but the technology will continue to be developed.

    Leaf mimic tool:
    Discussions among the group have contributed to the design of a leaf mimic tool, which will sit among arable crops and notify farmers of the presence of diseases like rust before the symptoms appear on the leaves. This gives the farmers a valuable head start with treatment. It is still in development stages as more foundational research, including lab trials, are needed before it can be used and further developed with farmers.

    The group met in October, February and with the Scottish group in December, to share the innovations and feedback.

    An open webinar will take place before mid-Autumn to draw the project to a close - please sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date. Both the blood sampling kit and leaf mimic tool will continue to be developed beyond the official end of the project, so please get in touch if you are interested to pilot either of these on your farm.

    Milestone: On-farm tech trials

    September 2019

    Technology development update

    Over the summer engineers have been working on the animal blood sampling, farmer-centric database and the leaf mimic applications.

    Livestock database
    The backbone of the livestock database has been designed and is underway. This version will be installed on an Android phone and getting farmer feedback on the Graphical User Interface (GUI) will be valuable to make sure that the app functions as anticipated and that the app layout is optimal.

    Molecular detection - Blood sampling
    The next stage for the blood sampling project is to test blood sampling in a real-world environment to test if the sampling method works and that it is less effort than calling out a vet and drying off the animal. A synthetic blood that can be used to simulate a lancet prick before testing the blood sampling method will be used in order to be in compliance with ethics at the University of Manchester.

    Molecular detection - Leaf mimic
    Engineers will present computer-generated images of what is being proposed and will discuss further development options with the group.


    At the next meeting in October this group will test the livestock database and trial the blood sampling innovation as explained above, looking at the practicalities of using the various innovations on-farm.

    Milestone: Design of tech

    May 2019

    Design of technology in progress

    This group has identified the issues they will focus on for technology development with two focus areas: small molecular and a livestock database. They have been working with engineers and academics at the Universities of York and Manchester to co-develop solutions in response to these issues.

    Small molecular detection
    Engineers from the Universities of Manchester and York are looking at how small molecular detection can help farmers in monitoring and detecting the presence of disease in crops, as well as monitoring the health of livestock through presence of disease or parasites in bodily fluids. This project is in the schematic phase, which means it will need much further theoretical development and testing. As such there won’t be anything tangible in the coming period, but collaboration with farmers at this stage means that future research and development is informed by farmers.


    Livestock database
    Similar to the I Know Food Scottish Border group, this area of the project will be looking at an effective way farmers can make notes on livestock out in the field about specific cases. This has taken the shape of an app, but one that is incredibly simple to use and focusses on data about a particular animal or a small number of animals instead of the whole herd. This is essentially upgrading how people currently capture notes in the field on their phones or with pen and paper. It allows them to centralise the information and organise it around animals of interest.

    Milestone: Design of tech

    July 2018

    Engineer working on the potential solutions

    The results of the field labs are being discussed by a team of engineers at the University of Manchester, with a view to proposing potential technological solutions.

    Milestone: Start of tech development

    March 2018

    Issues further described and attributes of solutions identified

    We used maps and timelines to further understand each of the issues that were shortlisted. Where and when are the technologies or practices that are currently used, in what ways are they not ideal and why? This then led to a more detailed conversation about what would really help resolve the issues, and aspects that are important to take into account when looking for solutions (e.g. reducing soil compaction; equipment that can be used on wet land).

    Milestone: Key issues identified

    February 2018

    Prioritising issues

    In this meeting we looked at the potential issues and, using criteria we developed in the group, we prioritised the issues.

    The prioritised short list of issues is:

    - How to improve soil management
    - Targeting of pesticide use
    - Improving the nutritional quality of the food we grow.

    Milestone: Aims identified

    March 2017

    Introductions and ideas

    In the first meeting, we introduced each other and discussed the reasons why we are farmers. We then discussed the experiences we have had with agricultural innovation and the trade-offs we have had to make in response to new technologies. This led to a discussion about the reasons why we should innovate in the first place. The meeting ended with identifying a range of potential issues the group could work on.

    Milestone: Kick off meeting

    March 2017

    First stage of the field lab

    The aim of the first stage is to understand the opportunities, challenges and frustrations facing the farmers in each field lab, including positive and negative experiences of on-farm technology. The group then identify the issues that they want to work on. An engineer from the University of Manchester is present throughout the discussions, who provides a link to a wider pool of academics interested in technology development. These engineers are currently looking at potential solutions, including low-cost sensor technologies, and how these may be developed in response to the issues identified.

    Milestone: Initial idea

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