IIFs bring together N8 academic scientists and researchers within food policy operations and health, agrifood, livestock systems, engineering, digital innovation and socioeconomics, with industry, engineers, vets, farmers, policy makers, NGOs and other external stakeholders. The aim is to develop collaborative research projects between industry and the N8 universities (Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York) in key priority areas.

N8 AgriFood have put together 5 IIFs since the start of the Programme, attracting 150 +industry and external stakeholders, some of whom are now actively engaged in ongoing projects seeking solutions to business critical problems.
Our next IIF will be on the topic of ‘Ensuring traceable and transparent global supply chains’ 18th April 2018.

Below follows a summary of some of our ongoing projects arising from recent IIFs – please contact Malou Lindholm, Events & Business Engagement Manager if you would like more information on these or future IIFs.

Soil Health IIF 31st March 2017 (with ADAS and YEN)

6 projects developed on the day with 3 so far progressing:

1. Multi-functional benefits of optimised crop rotation and cover crop design:

Sheffield/Leeds/ADAS/James Hutton Institute/Stockbridge technology Centre/Soil Association/LEAF.

2. Micronutrient management for yield enhancement and improved nutritional quality in wheat:

Leeds/Durham/York/Newcastle/Lancaster/Croda/Stockbridge Technology Centre/LEAF.

3. Novel approaches to managing water in arable soils to increase crop yields:

Newcastle/Leeds/York/Durham/Sheffield/Lancaster/ADAS/Precision Decision.

AMR/AMU IIF 4th May 2017 (with NFU and AHDB)

5 projects developed on the day – 3 progressing

1. Understanding and reducing transmission of antimicrobial resistance through the food chain

Subject to ethics and practical approval, we have a proposed design for a longitudinal pilot study on AMR biodiversity and cross-species transmissibility in the pork production industry.  The idea is to take stool samples from pigs, farmers and farm-workers, as well as vets and abattoir-workers, and look for genetic AMR markers in gut bacteria.  We are working on defining a suitable microbiological technique for categorising AMR profiles, and in particular using next-generation DNA sequencing techniques to identify the presence of known resistance genes. We are at the point of now approaching a large local manufacturing company  farmers to ensure their engagement in an experiment to stool sample farm-workers, pigs, and associated meat workers and vets up the food supply chain on a sample of 3 farms.  This experiment will use a shotgun metagenomic approach to detect the presence of known AMR genetic markers, and then use a source-attribution statistical model to determine where close associations lie between the pattern of AMR markers detected in each species.

As metagenomics is currently expensive this will necessarily be a pilot study focusing mostly on the farm-level, with the majority of samples taken from farmers/farm-workers and pigs.  If we can get some funding to do this study, we are looking to apply for a wider grant which would allow more intense sampling in the abattoir and meat processing plants.

Participants signed up for involvement on the day:
Lancaster/Durham/York/APHA/Cranswick/Cellular Systems/LEAF

2. Reducing antimicrobial resistance in pigs

Currently we aim to try and finalise work package leads, find out what international connections we have as a group and identify a place to submit the proposal to, and establish a deadline and work timetable.  We have employed new KE fellow specialising in livestock to drive this project forwards, and hope to have more specific actions to report soon.

Participants signed up for involvement on the day:
Leeds/Liverpool/Newcastle/AB Neo/AHDB/Tesco/FSA/Leaf UK/Alliance to Save our Antibiotics.

3. Identification of biological markers to better understand and inform AMU in beef calves

We have sent in an applications for an AHDB studentship in collaboration with the Royal Agricultural University, Synergy Vets, Buitelaar and Dovecote Park titled “Predicting calf pneumonia risk and carcass quality”. This will use metabolomics and proteomic techniques to screen for biomarkers in saliva associated with subsequent need to antibiotic treatment during the growing phase in beef cross dairy calves. Carcase classification at slaughter will be recorded and used to determine if any markers also predict that.

Additionally, this working group have received N8 pump priming funding for a project (Title: What drives the use of Critically Important Antimicrobials by UK dairy farmers?) We are working with Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group farmers. A pilot workshop has been run and 4 more are planned.

Participants signed up for involvement on the day:
Liverpool/Synergy Farm Health/AHDB/Buitelaar/CIEL/Marches Vets

Digital Innovation in Livestock IIF 26th September 2017
(with CIEL and STFC Food Network+)

1. Reduced antibiotic use in broiler production systems

This project is focusing on the development of targeted selective treatment namely:
i. Devise a method capable of identifying disease within a broiler shed.
ii. Devise a method of separation of the disease hotspot animals.
iii. Develop a method of delivery of antibiotics to the birds .

Funds have been secured for a workshop to agree on next steps

Participants signed up for involvement on the day:
Newcastle University / Applied Solutions / British Poultry Council/ Westpoint Farm Vets
National Farmers Union/ KTN /Agricultural Industries Confederation/AHDB
University of Sheffield/University of Cambridge/ Broiler equipment supplier

2. Multi-purpose tags for grower/finisher pigs

The development of added-value tags with a multi-purpose use across the life-cycle of the animal:
i. Technological answer to question of ‘under-performance’.
ii. Integration of data across different sectors.

Participants signed up for involvement: 

AHDB/ Harbro / Scottish pig producers/ Agri-Epi/ Raft/ Agrimetrics

3. Open data farming

The characterisation and early recognition of health and welfare problems using free access sensor systems:

i. Develop free-to-access sensor system for farmers
ii. Mining of resulting data to identify variables able to detect health and welfare problems iii. Develop system updates routine which identifies health and welfare problems over time iv. Model economic benefit of automatically identified early detection of health and welfare problems
v. Understand social and economic response of farmers to early warning system via stakeholder consultation
vi. Develop engagement across supply chain for access to data; engagement with consumers

Participants signed up for involvement: 

Durham University /CasCom Ltd / Newcastle University / Zoetis / University of York /CIEL
University of Liverpool /IceRobotics / Agrimetrics / RAFT

4. Cross-sector data collection and data integration in order to quantify meat quality

The collection and integration of physical and biological datastreams in the supply chain to characterise meat ‘quality’:
i. analysis of existing metrics of meat quality, definition of measures of quality, and quantify consumer experience of quality
ii. organise physical and biological datastreams in the supply chain to tell a single provenance ‘story’
iii. Big data/analytics of pre-existing and new metrics of quality
iv. Stakeholder engagement across a single examplar supply chain

Participants signed up for involvement:
Agrimetrics / Farmex /British Poultry Council /Lancaster University/ British Retail Council
Westpoint Farm Vets / National Pig Association /RAFT Solutions Ltd /Tulip Ltd /AHDB