Network+ building a legacy for the future

1st August 2018

Our exciting plans for the next phase of the Network+ focus on working with the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU) and their newly established National Academy of Green Development. We will be building on the success of the projects funded so far by combining the data, technologies and capabilities that the projects have produced to deliver a whole-system solution for farmers. We will develop a prototype AGRI-TECH INTEGRATION PLATFORM based at CAU’s experimental site in Quzhou, Hebei province, about 400 km south of Beijing in the North China Plain.

A complementary workstream based in the Shandong province, where average farm size is much larger than at Quzhou, will ensure we provide a legacy in a separate province and where agriculture operates on a different scale.

The Network+ has already shown, for example, how robotic technology could be applied to harvesting and grafting, satellite and UAV data could help to manage water supplies and crop disease. Now we want to pull together this technology, data and expertise into a platform that works for farmers.

You can see a summary of the Network+ achievements and vision for the future in our brochure.


Building on our success


The Network+ has already demonstrated:

  • huge potential to apply and develop agri-tech in China to make agriculture more sustainable
  • expanding availability and pervasiveness of data and technology – Earth observation, ground based sensors, UAVs, robotics, internet of things
  • clear interest and buy in from private and public sector and a network to expand on.


What we’ve achieved:

  • Building partnerships

    We’ve established a membership of around 500 academics and business partners and facilitated new public private partnerships across almost 30 projects involving 50 organisations, including 12 businesses.
  • Driving innovation

    Our projects have examined new roles for space enabled technologies in Chinese agriculture from robotic harvesting and grafting to the deployment of UAVs, multi-/hyper-spectral and radar satellite data and the use of novel data handling and modelling approaches.
  • Sharing knowledge

    We have pioneered Open Innovation workshops, providing rapid development of innovative demand-led partnerships and projects. Our first Annual Meeting in Newcastle UK in March 2018 was a chance to see the breadth of what has been achieved.


Our vision for the future

The next phase of the Network+ will build on existing investments to consolidate the individual innovation at a single location. This will result in the deployment of an independent self-sustaining system capable of combining satellite and other space-enabled technology with remote and in-situ sensor networks, to enable integrated management of agricultural systems across scales in China.

Our vision is an AGRI-TECH INTEGRATION PLATFORM to enable management of agricultural systems across scales in China. It would bring together:

TECHNOLOGY: connect different ground, UAV and satellite-based sensor technologies

DATA & KNOWLEDGE: integrate data to enable near real-time analysis and knowledge generation to support farmers and farming systems, plus the data needed to monitor policy impacts.

INNOVATION: enable open innovation and new UK/China partnerships between researchers and businesses, that use the infrastructure to build new solutions.

Agri-tech integration platform

The outcome will be a proof of concept for subsequent funding bids by partners for the development and deployment of such systems in other parts of China and in developing countries across the world. By building on existing partnerships, including public-private partnerships, this work will help ensure the ongoing sustainability of the impact of the STFC Agritech in China Newton Network+.


Achieving our vision

Building on the Opportunities from the evolution of the STBs in China and the launch of National Academy of Agriculture Green Development (NAAGD) based in Quzhou

On 25 April, CAU announced the development of a National Academy of Agriculture Green Development based in Quzhou county. The aims of the academy are to pursue;

  • Innovative green crop production system – including the development of new crop varieties, new fertilizers and green pesticides, and the establishment of an integrated soil crop management system, sustainable intensification in food production with high yield, high efficiency and climate resilience.
  • Innovative coupling system of animal and crop production – including efficient nutrient cycling between cropping and animal husbandry to increase nutrient use efficiency in the whole food chain.
  • Innovative village-based recycling economy model - focusing on water-soil-air environmental quality and safety control, the quality of agro-ecological environment through adopting integrated utilization of waste, utilization of biodiversity, integrated pollution control, and the coordinated development of diverse economic models.
  • Innovative green industry and market development - through building green industry-based e-commerce, and big data platforms to promote green industry and market development by integration with the Internet and other means of information dissemination, and ultimately realize the integration of agricultural production, food processing and marketing towards green, ecological, and high value-added industry.

China is investing large sums into this programme, managed by CAU.

The Network+ will directly benefit from this investment through the co-location of the first Agri-Tech Integration Platform at the National Academy of Agriculture Green Development in Quzhou.  Developed on the site of one of the longest running agricultural research institutes in China, NAAGD has some of the oldest field experiments and longest contiguous data sets in the country. Moreover, it links to two adjacent STBs in Quzhou County and enjoys significant support from the local government.  Space enabled technologies such as Earth Observation and Robotics is seen as a key part of the green industrial revolution, especially in its role supporting green cropping and coupling of animal and crop production. 

On the back of this investment, GSMA, Rothamsted, UCL and China Mobile have formed a partnership with the CAU to build a proof-of-concept Internet of Things for Agriculture installation at the NAAGD. Inspired by the success of the Network+, this project will run in parallel with the development of the Network+’s Integration Platform to ensure maximum added value from the co-investment and co-location.


Open Innovation workshop in Shandong Province

An important element of the Network Plus portfolio of projects is the different geographic scales at which the different technologies can be applied.  Farms in Quzhou county are generally very small, and so we are proposing an open innovation workshop in Shandong province, where average farm size is much larger.  CAU already have projects in this province and have told us that there are areas where they would value input from the Network Plus. Projects in Shandong will provide a legacy in a separate province with agriculture on a different scale.