New conference to drive technology advancements in horticulture

Leading developers and influencers in agri-tech are being invited to exhibit at SmartHort 2019, a new conference designed to connect innovators with the horticultural industry.

Commercial businesses, research or service organisations using technological advances to drive real change in the industry are the focus for the event.

In return, exhibitors will have the opportunity to network with leading figures in horticulture, better understand the challenges facing UK production and connect with potential customers during the two-day conference and dinner.

The conference will take place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, March 6-7, 2019. It is part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) SmartHort campaign to address the challenge of access to affordable seasonal labour in the UK.

Grace Emeny, AHDB project manager for SmartHort, said: “Guest speakers from around the globe will be sharing some of the most exciting developments in robotics and automation that could play a role in revolutionising the horticulture industry in the future.

“The conference will create an excellent opportunity to connect technology and engineering companies, research organisations and funders with the horticultural industry to help find solutions to the serious challenge UK businesses are facing with the current labour shortage.”

Shortfall in seasonal workers

AHDB’s chief strategy officer Tom Hind said: “Horticulture has seen cases where there has been a 30% shortfall in seasonal workers this season, putting huge strains on businesses who are reliant on labour to pick fruit, vegetables or flowers in fields and glasshouses.

While full automation is a long way off from solving this crisis, in addition to working to improve management practices for existing workforces, we are exploring how robotics, automation and artificial intelligence may help to offset some of this challenge in the future.

Day one of the conference will focus on labour-saving technologies including the latest developments in robotics and automation for tasks such as harvesting, packing and crop monitoring.

The second day will bring together the latest innovation in production and growing techniques, including crop protection, product handling and data-driven cropping systems.