Dr Bruce Grieve is the director of the e-Agri Sensors Centre, based within the School of Electronics and Electrical Engineering. His focus is “precision farming”, adapting sensor informatics technology from other industries to help farmers improve efficiency and yields.

How do you get more for less?

That’s the biggest single challenge facing food production today.

A booming world population means demand for food is predicted to rise by 50 per cent by 2030.

At the same time, climate change is having a major impact on soil quality and water availability, just as urbanisation is pushing farmers into more challenging environments.

I’m hoping our research will give farmers the information they need to farm smarter and meet this challenge head on, delivering better quality food production from smaller plots of land with fewer added nutrients.

Over the past 50 years, intensification of farming has led to more and more efficient use of grain and herbicides - we’re now pretty much at the limit of what we can do with standard soil management.

We’ve developed satellite imaging technology to give farmers a clearer picture of how their crops are growing, and now we’re working with a range of stakeholders all along the agri-food supply chain to develop sensor technology that could really make a big difference to crop production.

We’re only just starting to discover what happens below the surface of the farmer’s field. Like an iceberg, we don’t see the most important part of a crop. There’s so much going on under there - it’s an extraordinary mix of interactions between the crop’s roots and the soil and nutrients around it.

Our research is getting into the detail of exactly what’s happening and how affecting and controlling those interactions could make a significant contribution to producing more for less.

It’s a phenomenally exciting area to be working in and hopefully over the next few years, we’ll see the first large-scale implementation of sensor informatics.

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