January 21st 2019

CHAP consortium wins £1.3 million grant

Fantastic news that we have been awarded £1.3 million from the highly competitive ‘Transforming Food Production’ call. A multidisciplinary consortium including CHAP, Liberty Produce, Stockbridge Technology Centre, Rothamsted Research and number of other SMEs will develop a prototype vertical farm growing system to provide high tech and innovative solutions to the sector to reduce complexity and cost whilst, at the same time, delivering increased yield and quality. These systems could reduce water usage, eliminate the use of agrochemicals and provide year-round local production. The 27 month project will begin in April 2019. This is fantastic news for the sector which is currently on the cusp of commercial viability. Improved technology will increase the adoption of these sustainable growing systems, reduce environmental impact, improve food security and create opportunities for the growth and export of UK agricultural technologies.

Our submission was described as a ‘highly innovative and progressive partnership of players with strong strategic and commercial acumen looking to position UK PLC as a frontrunner of the vertical farming space’.

January 16th 2019

Looking ahead from our new Business Development Manager

Chris Delf writes “Since joining CHAP on January 7th 2019, I have been completely overwhelmed by the depth of research capabilities that are already in use and mostly unseen by a large part of the agricultural industry. Farm businesses are so focussed on the day to day activities (and the weather) that much of the science in action in the field is taken for granted.

Whilst the last 30 years have seen great improvements in productivity from new pesticides, improved varieties, bigger machines and better understanding of techniques, it is now quite obvious that we have reached a plateau in productivity, particularly in arable crops.

One area of increased interest is soil health and the concept that improving soil health will lead to better crops as well as providing environmental benefits. There are many new biostimulant products  coming to the market  which appear to have positive benefits on plant health and growth, and offer the possibility of reducing dependence on mineral based fertilisers and pesticides.

However, until we can determine how and why these products are affecting the plant physiology they will remain underutilised and possibly undervalued. The way forward is for suppliers to subject their products to independent testing to see if their potential can be fully realised”.

January 14th 2019

CHAP takes on a new Innovation Hub lead

Jenna Ross has joined the CHAP team as Innovation Hub Lead and will be based in Rothamsted. With a strong background in biocontrol and having grown up on a family farm, Jenna is well suited for the role. In addition to her background in research, Jenna has also completed her MBA, received a Nuffield scholarship and has been the winner of 2 prestigious awards -Land-based Aquaculture Higher Education Learner of the Year award and the Council for Awards of Royal Agricultural Societies (CARAS). Welcome Jenna!

January 2019

Coming Soon for all those working in the agri-tech field

We are launching a brand new membership scheme early in 2019. Find out what’s in it for you.

Whether you are a farmer, grower, agronomist, horticulturalist, researcher, academic, large company or SME, there will be something in our membership scheme that will suit you. But we want to make sure we tailor it absolutely right and you can help us with this. We are going to put it through a testing phase with a select number of businesses at a reduced rate in the next few months.

We would love to hear from you, so please get in touch to tell us how our membership scheme could add value to your business. You might want to make use of our world-leading facilities and expertise or have the opportunity to network and connect with individuals and companies or perhaps be part of grant collaborations. All you have to do is let us know and we will do the rest.

If you would like to be part of the testing phase and take advantage of our early bird reduced offer for CHAP membership, please contact Louise Saw on 01904 462204  or email louise.saw@chap-solutions.co.uk

December 31st 2018

CHAP and Partners ready to spread their wings

2019 is going to be a busy year for #TeamCHAP. With the arrival of two new staff members in January, Plans are already well under way to disperse the team far and wide to spread the word about all our exciting projects we have in the pipeline.

We’ll be out and about so keep an eye out for us. We’re planning to be at the Oxford Farming Conference and European Biostimulants Interactive Summit in Madrid in January. Later in the year, we’ll be at the agriculture sector’s must-attend-events – Cereals and CropTec.

So come and find us. We’ll almost certainly have the CHAP mobile lab with us ( pictured), from where we will showcase our different technologies on film. Our scientists  will also be on hand to answer all your questions.

Our services and expertise cover a range of areas. So, if our you have an interest in pesticide resistance, biocontrol, pathogens or nitrogen use efficacy, our partnerships with Fera, CABI and Rothamsted Research ensure that we will be at the forefront of all emerging technologies.

Or if soil health and controlled environment growing are on your agenda in the coming year, the Soil Health Unit at Cranfield University and Vertical Farming Development Centre at Stockbridge Technology Centre are capabilities to keep an eye on.

For more information on what we do and for all our exciting developments, check out our website at chap-solutions.co.uk or drop us a line at enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

January 2019

Coming soon – for everyone interested in data driven decision-making in agriculture 

Come and join us for our Crops Day on March 26th 2019 in Cockle Farm, Morpeth, Newcastle.

CHAP is joining forces with its three sister centres ( Agri-metrics, Agri-epi and CIEL) for a showcase and workshop day to give you the opportunity to be introduced to our state of the art technologies and to start building consortia to submit bids for the next Innovate UK funding call in the Spring. We will have scientists on hand to show you around and answer all your questions. The theme will be Transforming Food Production, including data driven decision-making. The day is invitation only, but if you are interested in being involved please contact Charlotte Milligan charlotte.milligan@chap-solutions.co.uk

Our technologies on display include:

Crop Monitor Pro – a national surveillance and risk forecasting service to understand the risks from crop pathogens, pests and diseases across the UK.

Cutting-edge imaging technology and automated image processing – to assess how plants respond to pathogens, pests and weeds, and to identify insect sensitivity to pesticides.

Soil Health unit – where the relationship between water use, soil health, pathogens, weeds and roots is explored to create the best possible growing conditions for sustainable methods of food production.

E-Flows mesocosm – Europe’s most advanced edge-of-field water assessment facility will enable environmental testing of plant protection products to meet the most stringent regulatory standards, helping to introduce a wider range of more effective products more quickly to market to help farmers tackle threats to their crops.

LED lighting – to showcase existing and novel technologies for indoor crop production. Ultimately this will mean improving the ability to grow fresh and more tasty produce all year round.

Mobile Laboratories – to diagnose instantly pesticide resistance to the prolific weed blackgrass, crop fungus Septoria or gangrene in potatoes

January 2019

Coming soon – for farmers and agronomists 

Crop Monitor Pro will be launched in March 2019 with a real-time surveillance, forecasting and diagnostics platform to support decision-making for UK wheat crops.

Crop Monitor Pro (CMP) is a next generation decision support tool, building on www.cropmonitor.co.uk.  Weather stations, spore traps and soil sensors will feed information back to the platform at Fera to provide the farmer with up to date information on the infestation levels of pests and the seven major diseases with predictions on their development based on the predictive model, weather data and agronomic information from the farm management system. A soil map is also included together with a growth stage model.

There are 31 locations where CHAP weather stations are in operation, with 14 day ahead weather and spray day forecasts. The UK Met Office will supply landscape scale hourly weather feeds (2 km x 2 km grids).

CMP will be available as a subscription service and will use agronomic data for each field to provide the farmer to make informed decisions on the need to spray and advise on resistance management. A comprehensive decisions support system allows the farmer to spray only when required and avoids the need for prophylactic spraying, so saving money, reducing pesticide use and ultimately risk to the environment.




Hoping that the new year brings you success and new opportunities from all your friends at CHAP.

We look forward to staying in touch in 2019!

January 2019

Coming soon – our new Business Development Manager

Chris Delf joins CHAP in January. Chris comes from NuFarm, and has been involved with agronomy and crop protection throughout his career and has been employed as both technical and commercial specialist in a variety of crop protection businesses both global and national. When accepting the role he said “I enjoy meeting people, discussing the opportunities for collaboration and finding solutions to difficult problems. I am always keen to exploit commercial opportunities where both parties benefit – the win-win scenario”. Chris’s role will be to promote and sell all CHAP services across the UK so please do get in touch.

He can be contacted at chris.delf@chap-solutions.co.uk

December 16th 2018

Dr David George describes the role of CHAP in driving forward the agri-revolution

According to a 2016 Defra report (British Food and farming at a glance) the value of UK agricultural production is estimated to be over £25bn, accounting for 70% of UK land use and employing nearly half a billion people. Growing demand from this sector for sustainable produce with reduced chemical inputs and environmental impact puts increasing strain on arable and horticultural production. There is a need to produce more and more food, with fewer and fewer inputs, from fixed field sizes. The current political and legislative environment is also placing significant stresses on our food production sector. Future farmer support systems, supply chains and access to plant protection and production products are all unclear in a post- Brexit Britain.

Read more here: https://www.fstjournal.org/features/32-4/CHAP.

January 2019

Coming soon…. for agri-chem companies 

The E-Flows Mesocosm, the first of its kind in Europe, heralding a new era of research will be ready for use later in 2019

This facility will ensure that environmental risk assessments for a range of compounds such as plant protection products will be based on science rather than on predictive models. It will allow testing under conditions that have not been possible previously, which in turn will give researchers and regulators a far deeper understanding of the effects of these chemicals on the environment.

The mesocosm has been developed in a partnership between CHAP and Fera Science. By next summer it will have completed a programme of work to put it through its paces (operational testing) to validate the scientific principles on which the design was based. In other words we are making sure it does what it says on the tin, then it will be ready for use.

This state of the art facility incorporates a constant supply of water from a borehole – driven down to a Grade A sandstone aquifer – that can provide over 400 cubic meters of water per day across 60 independent experimental units. Before being used in the mesocosm units the water is passed through five shallow lagoons allowing the water to age and become consistent with natural surface level water. The flow supplied to each unit can also be varied, to concurrently evaluate the risk of a chemical with different flow rates to simulate fast and slow moving streams. Ultimately it will provide key data required for the approval of a range of products.

For more information go to https://chap-solutions.co.uk/services/asset-2-e-flows-mesocosm/

5th December 2018

Soil is on the agenda at AHDB Agronmists Conference 

Richard Glass attended the AHDB Agronomists Conference 2018 in Peterborough, with a break out session and discussions around how to protect soil health and the priorities for a soil management programme.  Key factors considered to be having a rotation to minimise carry-over of pathogens and weeds, and maintaining a good soil structure with a cultivation policy to avoid excessive compaction during wet weather with use of heavy machinery. Indicators of good soil health considered to be a uniform, healthy, high yielding crop without signs of runoff or waterlogging.

30th November 2018

CHAP and CABI technologies make national news

There’s been national coverage of a CABI partnership project on BBC News, Radio 2 & Radio 4. The Pet Risk Information Service (PRISE) has been developed as an early warning system to prevent crop devastation in Africa and Kenya, Ghana and Zambia are where the system is currently being used. The system itself uses temperature data and weather forecasts and then sends farmers a mobile phone alert so they are able to take the necessary precautions.

29th November 2018

150 pea growers descend on Sand Hutton

Pea growers from East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire turned out in force for a Birds Eye Conference at Sand Hutton today. After a quick lunch they were given a tour of CHAP and Fera technologies. These included the Crop Monitor, E-Flows and Mobile labs along with an introduction to Fera Science Testing Services (Plant Clinic, Molecular Testing Unit and Food Testing) and Fera’s Integrated Pest Management, Horizon Scan and Early Warning System and it’s Soil Health Unit. The farmers said they were hugely impressed with many remarking that they ‘had no idea there was so much on their doorstep’ and asked to be kept in touch with developments.

28th & 29th November 2018

A report from Croptec

Here in the agri-tech world, we can all finally concentrate on Christmas now our industry’s trade show of the year, CropTec, has drawn to a close.

Anyone who’s anyone was in attendance at the biggest and best show yet with over 170 exhibitors promoting their wares both giving access to the best technical advice for arable farming and allowing people to stay ahead in the competitive world of global crop production.

For those of you not in the know (where have you been hiding), the annual CropTec show is aimed specifically at growers, agronomists, business advisors, suppliers and scientists and their goal of making it the UK’s leading knowledge exchange in the industry has well and truly been attained.

2018 was the year that the over-riding theme of the show was to promote technical excellence to assist farmers drive down their unit costs of production and the four seminars, 21 speakers and five specialist hubs all contributed to a fantastic turnout and an even better show.

For us here at CHAP, it was a fantastic opportunity to network and spread the word about everything we stand for and the CHAP mobile laboratory trailer in partnership with our partners at the University of Newcastle stood pride of place in the centre of the exhibition hall next to the main sponsor, Corteva’s stand.

CHAP’s Innovation Hub Lead Richard Glass, Head of Marketing Darren Hassall and Head of PR & Comms Charlotte Milligan were in attendance along with Rothamsted Research’s Kirsty McInness and all four manned the trailer speaking at length about CHAP, our partners and the fantastic work being conducted at the moment at our state-of-the-art capabilities, including the E-Flows Mesocosm @ fera, the Soil Health Facility @ Cranfield University and the Vertical Farming Development Centre @ Stockbridge Technology Centre.

For more information on all our contract services and capabilities check out https://chap-solutions.co.uk/

21st November 2018

CHAP speaks at the AgChem and Technology Europe conference

Ruth Bastow and Richard Glass were speakers at the AgChem and Technology Europe conference in London last week, presenting the CHAP capabilities and discussing the current regulatory issues for Plant Protection Products (PPPs). It was attended by service suppliers to AgChem companies from all over the world. They also chaired sessions dealing with recent developments with formulation research, such as ways to reduce the environmental impact by replacing synthetic organic solvents with less toxic natural products.

20th November 2018

CABI’s work with the MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer is recognised by fellow scientists

CHAP’s team at CABI is focusing on the maintenance, by storage under liquid nitrogen, of collected microbial (particularly fungal) threats to major UK crops. Part of this capability is a so-called MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer, originally purchased for characterisation and quality control of material going into and out from the National Reference Collection. Since the commissioning of the spectrometer, early in 2017, CABI scientists at Egham have been developing new sample-preparation and data-analysis methods to simplify the workflow and to expand the usefulness of the mass spectrometer within CHAP and CABI. These efforts have, so far, resulted in three peer-reviewed publications (details below).  Another three papers are currently submitted and under peer review, and a further four are in preparation.  Anyone interested in collaborative opportunities within CHAP using this MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer should contact either Mike Reeve (M.Reeve@cabi.org) or Alan Buddie (A.Buddie@cabi.org).

  • Reeve MA, Buddie AG, Pollard KM, Varia S, Seier MK, Offord LC, Cock MJW. A highly-simplified and inexpensive MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry sample-preparation method with broad applicability to microorganisms, plants, and insects. J Biol Methods 2018;5(4):e103. DOI: 10.14440/jbm.2018.261. http://www.jbmethods.org/jbm/article/view/261
  • Reeve MA, Pollard KM, Kurose D. Differentiation between closely-related Impatiens spp. and regional biotypes of Impatiens glandulifera using a highly-simplified and inexpensive method for MALDI-TOF MS. Plant Methods 2018:14:60. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13007-018-0323-6.
  • Reeve MA and Buddie AG. A simple and inexpensive method for practical storage of field-sample proteins for subsequent MALDI-TOF MS analysis. Plant Methods 2018:14:90. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13007-018-0358-8.

15th November 2018

The E-Flows Mesocosm is officially opened

Today the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Gove MP, Kevin Hollinrake, who is also the local MP for Sand Hutton officially opened CHAP’s E-Flows Mesocosm. The ceremony came at the end of a conference for farmers on the future of the sector, held at NAFIC, attended by more than 160 people. Delegates were given a tour of CHAP’s capabilities, including Vertical Farming, Crop Monitor, the mobile labs and, of course, the E-Flows. The feedback was excellent with one delegate saying ” I found today’s conference very useful and interesting. As a practical farmer, I found the morning tour the most useful. Seeing the work CHAP is carrying out on crop monitoring. I could see major benefits and am keen to explore the possibilities”

14th November 2018

CHAP’s new Innovation Hub lead reports

Richard Glass is now in his third week with CHAP and is already out and about promoting our capabilities. This week he attended the AAB Crop Protection in Southern Britain with delegates from the agronomy and research communities making presentations about resistance management for pests and diseases, and of course, blackgrass. As a long standing AAB member and Trustee of the AAB Richard said “ It was a good chance to catch up with some old friends in the sector. The BCPC conference was well attended by a broad range of the industry dealing with risk assessment and registration. The focus of the conference was ecotox and also dealing with the withdrawal from the EU. CHAP shared a stand with Innovate UK offering a good opportunity to network with delegates”.

9th November 2018

A report from China

Chris Danks and Ian Cox ( pictured outside the Ambassador’s Residence at the British Embassy in Beijing) took part an Agri-Tech Scoping Mission to China last week. It forms part of a government strategy to boost science and innovations between the UK and China which was launched in December 2017.  The first Flagship Challenge in 2018 will focus on agricultural technologies. The aim of this expert mission is to gather market insights and to build expert foresights on new and emerging innovation sectors, ascertaining quantifiable benefits and synergies between the UK and Partner Countries in accessing/creating commercial opportunities. This enables a portfolio of technological and business priorities to be built to act as the foundation for the UK to be the “Partner of Choice” in resilient and successful bilateral/multilateral partnerships with strategic global economies. A delegation of eight UK companies was there including Dave Ross representing the four Agri-Tech Centres vision.

A specific aim was to refine the scope for the proposed joint funding call through Innovate UK’s ISCF Transforming Food Production programme.  This is expected to be a £5 million funding from the UK matched by China, with the call likely to be launched in 2019. There will be many opportunities where CHAP could play a key partnering role including embracing the concept of a SmartFarm philosophy, driving data driven precision and decision support to enhance productivity and sustainability and the exploration of novel food production technologies (e.g. vertical farming) with a focus upon both the technologies involved but also the economic and market justification for such systems.  Ongoing relationship building will be encouraged ahead of the call to ensure CHAP consortia are prepared for when to call is announced.

7th November 2018

CHAP ‘s new starters wowed by our range of technologies

Darren Hassall (Marketing Manager), Richard Glass (Innovation Hub Lead) and Louise Saw (Membership Manager) are being introduced to CHAP’s brand new facilities. Here they are at Stockbridge Technology Centre. Afterwards Darren said ‘”We had a great  morning with Dave George (Director of Science) taking a tour of the Advance Glasshouse Facility & the Vertical Farming Development Facility. We are all very excited to be working with the whole CHAP team. There is so much to take on board but I can see already the huge potential these technologies will have across the sector, for example using light to manage crops and the Strip Till conservation system. I am looking forward to playing my part in ensuring everyone knows what CHAP has to offer”.

5th November 2018

CHAP has a new Membership Scheme Manager

Louise Saw joins the team as Membership Scheme Manager. Initially she will be researching the different types of membership schemes and working with stakeholders to identify the best one for CHAP. Louise’s background is in Project Management, she has over 15 years project, partnership and stakeholder management. She is a skills expert with broad knowledge and experience in UK education systems. She joins us from the Bio-renewables Development Centre where she was managing a bio-refining project, funded by Innovate UK, to reduce waste from sugar cane processing in India. Louise has also recently gained economic development experience by developing the Skills Service for the Leeds City Region Enterprise partnership, a service which sourced training and offered grants of £500-50k to help businesses grow.

2nd November 2018

CHAP’s E-Flows to be officially opened soon

It’s now just a matter of days before the official opening of the E-Flows mesocosm developed as a partnership between CHAP and Fera and supported by Innovate UK.

A mesocosm is an outdoor experimental system that examines simulations of natural aquatic environments under controlled conditions. As plant protection products such as pesticides are developed and registered, the agro-chemical industry will use a mesocosm facility to test the safety use and impact on aquatic environments, as part of higher tier testing.Historically, many standard mesocosms lack the scale, water flow and realism of real-life aquatic environments. To overcome this, the E-Flows mesocosm is supplied with a continuous flow-through of aged, fresh water and the flow in the test units is closely controlled. The small and constrained studies also encounter high levels of variation across repetitions, which results in the data having poor statistical power. This can cause some safe products not making it to market, causing pesticide options to become limited in agriculture.

For more information contact enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

1st November 2018

It’s all go at CHAP’s Soil Heath facility  

The Soil health Facility at Cranfield University, has seen a busy period with seven commercial projects using various part of the facility now completed. Three of them are funded through the new Johnson Matthey Partnership offering companies the opportunity to develop their project within an intense collaborative programme. In addition the first cycle of a three-year BBSRC project looking at how to use roots to bio-engineer soil has just been completed. A new £1 million research project funded through the Global Challenge Research Fund will make use of the new CHAP growth rooms to overcome soil health problems affecting rice production in sub-Saharan Africa. This project will examine the traits that allow African rice varieties to tolerate Fe-toxicity with the aim of incorporating these traits into high yielding varieties. The CHAP growth rooms offer state of the art climate control facilities including the ability to raise CO2 levels to study the impact of climate change on food production. Further details of this new project can be found at https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/press/news-2018/research-aims-to-boost-rice-production-in-africa.

29th October 2018

Meet CHAP’s new Innovation Hub lead  

Richard Glass will be working with a number of the CHAP capabilities, in particular the E-flows mesocosm, providing supporting data for aquatic risk assessments, and the Crop Monitor Pro, a pest and disease risk forecasting service for key arable crops. These two capabilities at Fera link with the Reference Collection of Crop Biotic Threats held by CABI, Fera and Rothamsted Research. Richard will be working to maximise the benefit from CHAP capabilities by using the precision farming centre based at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC), near Selby, where there is also an advanced glasshouse facility allowing rapid screening of plant protection products, in particular biopesticides. The CHAP capabilities aim to provide UK agriculture with information to make more efficient use of plant protection products, and reduce the time needed to bring new products, such as biopesticides to market.

25th October 2018

CHAP and CIEL join forces 

The team from CHAP’s sister Centre, CIEL (Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock), paid a visit to Sand Hutton to find out more about CHAP’s capabilities and to discuss ways of working together. The discussions centred around possible joint projects, shared data, systems and communications. By the end of the session both Centres had a much better understanding of each other’s technologies and priorities and pledged to support each other wherever possible.

24th October 2018

CHAP responds to ISCF ‘Transforming Food Production’ R&D call

CHAP and its Partners were well placed to respond to the first R&D call (£20 million) that focused on innovative business-led projects to improve productivity and sustainability across UK crop and ruminant production systems.

The CHAP team directly supported several bids.These included a Controlled Environment project that includes STC, Liberty Produce and Rothamsted and a variety of technology SMEs. The project, if successful, will use the CEFFC capability, Fine Phenotpying and Molecular diagnostics capabilities to develop high-tech solutions that will enable growers to increase their crop yield and quality, while reducing operation costs and better equipping them to adapt to market demand.

An innovative online soil support tool involving Cranfield and Frontier and associated SME that will provide robust evidence-based guidance direct to users to assist with the development of practical agronomic advice. If funded this will make use of the Soil Health Facility at Cranfield.

A consortium involving Newcastle, Fera, STC and Liberty Produce and a number of other Partners that will develop a decision support system for vertical farming solutions focused on disease mitigation and management and will make use of the CEFFC capability, alongside facilities at Newcastle and STC.

15th October 2018

SMEs come face to face with potential investors

At the KTN Agri-Tech Investment showcase in London, 14 innovative companies (many of which had attended the KTN/Chap masterclass in September) had the opportunity to meet with 45 private investors in a “dragon’s den” environment. The day was a huge success with particular interest in vertical growing and sensors that can be applied to novel systems.  We are optimistic that new partnerships will have emerged from the day and that they will involve the use of CHAP technologies.

12th October 2018

Grand opening of two brand new Stockbridge facilities 

Selby and Ainsty MP, Nigel Adams opened two state-of-the art new facilities at Stockbridge Technology Centre at Cawood. He was joined by the former Selby MP, John Grogan, who is now the MP for Keighley. The Vertical Farming Development Centre, which involves self-contained shelves of crop grown under lights and the Advanced Glasshouse Facility, which allows new approaches to crop production and crop protection with less reliance on chemical inputs will both revolutionise the way food is produced in Britain. According to lead scientist, Dr Dave George, both ventures will help the nation improve its food security and reduce our reliance on imports, whilst meeting the challenge of feeding an ever growing population. The opening was attended by more than 60 people, many from industry. According to CHAP Chairman, John Chinn, the day was a great success and ‘ there was a real buzz of excitement in the atmosphere’.

11th October 2018

 CHAP CEO addresses Game Changing Technologies in Agriculture event 

CHAP CEO, Fraser Black and Zeina Chapman from Liberty Produce talk to a packed audience about their new partnership to build a brand new facility to bridge the knowledge gap between existing and novel growing systems to improve UK agricultural productivity. Zeina said that large scale adoption of innovation is an essential feature of agricultural development and that the Vertical farming market is expected to worth £5bn in 2023.

There was a dazzling array of technologies on display at the event from robots (called Tom, Dick and Harry) to aeroponics and automated vaccinations of fish.

3rd October 2018 

CHAP CEO addresses Game Changing Technologies in Agriculture event

CHAP CEO, Fraser Black and Zeina Chapman from Liberty Produce talk to a packed audience about their new partnership to build a brand new facility to bridge the knowledge gap between existing and novel growing systems to improve UK agricultural productivity. Zeina said that large scale adoption of innovation is an essential feature of agricultural development and that the Vertical farming market is expected to worth £5bn in 2023.

There was a dazzling array of technologies on display at the event from robots (called Tom, Dick and Harry) to aeroponics and automated vaccinations of fish.

27th September 2018

One step closer to a national database of major weed, pathogen and insect agricultural pests

CHAP’s Partners from FERA, Rothamsted and CABI get together to advance the status of CHAP’s National Reference Collection. This capability will provide CHAP Partners with a database to document their compendiums of the major weed, pathogen and insect agricultural pests that they have collected, analysed and characterised over many years. This database will eventually be made available on the CHAP website, where it can be viewed by other researchers and/or industries who might be interested in accessing some of these different species/populations for their future or current studies. Such a reference collection will be the first published in the UK, and is viewed by many of the partners as an important resource that can assist the progression of a wide array of projects, including:

  • those investigating the efficacy of new products on a wide range of populations of a species,
  • projects studying the genetic and molecular diversity between species or within members of a species,
  • and even projects focusing on the evolution of pest species/populations.

The CHAP Partners made significant progress at this meeting,and are currently generating lists of collections they can contribute to the CHAP database.

26th September 2018

CHAP’s new Advisory Panel meets for the first time

The Advisory Panel reconvened under its new Chairman, Hannah Senior who is a NED on the CHAP Board, with representatives from almost all the CHAP members and high levels of engagement.  We successfully outlined the group’s new role – to “horizon scan” for new technologies and ideas, as well as to focus minds on challenges for industry and the ways in which CHAP partners might collaborate to solve them.  The discussion outlined that outputs could include identification of promising projects (to be worked up into detailed proposals by Special Interest Groups and other “coalitions of the willing”) or feedback to the CHAP Executive Team for consideration in the longer term strategy and/or asset base.

Building on a range of creative methods to tackle the Yield Plateau presented, a range of potential opportunities from big-picture-long-term to tactical-here-and-now were discussed. Hannah and the Innovation Director, Ruth Bastow, look forward to focusing on those ideas with most engagement in the next meetings, with further dates fixed for December and early next year.

20th September 2018

The official handover of the E-Flows is complete – well done all!

The practical completion and the handover of the E-Flows from Veridian Systems Ltd to CHAP took place today. This means that we can step up the validation process and start putting this fantastic new technology to use.There has been, and continues to be, a huge amount of interest in the mesocosm, Ian Cox, pictured here with his colleague from Innovate UK, John Topless and Lead Scientist Rachel Benstead, described it as ‘spectacular’.

For more information contact enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

19th September 2018

CHAP Partners brainstorm at a Transforming Food Production briefing 

CHAP Partners were invited to take part in a special Bid Development Masterclass focussing on the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Wave 2 challenge on Transforming Food Production. This “Productive and sustainable crop and ruminants agricultural productions systems” call is perfectly suited to use a lot of CHAP capabilities and Partners were given the opportunity to discuss some of their projects ideas and receive advice on how to take them further. KTN’s Chris Danks gave an overview of the ISCF wave 2 Transforming Food Production challenge, its overall objectives and the different streams of funding that will come through in the next three year. This is the first Industry Challenge Collaborative R&D funding call coming out of the TFP ISCF challenge.  Liliya Serazetdinova, also from KTN, went through the call scope and application process, highlighting the important points to address and pitfalls to avoid. Chris and Liliya finished by giving partners tips on how to develop a successful proposal either for this call or future Innovate UK opportunities.

13th September 2018

The pros and cons of metaldehyde

CHAP CEO, Fraser Black, speaks at the Metaldehyde Conference 2018, held at NAFIC in Sand Hutton. The conference welcomed researchers and representatives from water boards and industry with a shared passion to reduce the quantity of the commonly used metaldehyde molluscicide reaching the environment whilst improving slug control strategies in agriculture.

The event organised by Newcastle University and the Institute for Agri-Food Research and Innovation (IAFRI) highlighted the pros and cons associated with metaldehyde from the viewpoints of farmers, water board members and scientists, but also demonstrated how the three sectors are managing to work both independently and together to reduce (or even remove) the environmental impact of this pesticide.

Tom Bradshaw, farmer and Chairperson of the NFU Crops Board, provided invaluable first-hand insight into the use of metaldehyde and other integrated pest management strategies on his family-run farm, whilst Richard Reynolds (Anglian Water) and Alexandra Cooke (Severn Trent Water) described the promising schemes and incentives set up by their respective water companies to work with farmers in reducing/removing the need for metaldehyde in their farming practices. In addition, John Haley (Yorkshire Water and UKWIR) discussed the work conducted by UKWIR in collaboration with organisations, including ADAS, to use satellite remote sensory techniques for developing national pesticide risk maps, to help identify areas of high pesticide risk to catchment waters. By generating such information, and maintaining good communication networks with stakeholders and farmers, they hope to promote better use of metaldehyde (and other pesticides and farming practices) in areas surrounding water systems.

From the scientific research point of view, the identification of microbes that can metabolise metaldehyde and use it as a carbon and energy source was certainly very exciting and the day included presentations from both York and Newcastle Universities.

In summary, the day was extremely insightful, provided lots of ‘food for thought,’ and hopefully will result in the formation of several collaborative projects.

11th September 2018

CHAP holds masterclass for SMEs

25 SMEs took part in a CHAP/KTN organised masterclass to support participation in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund wave 2 – Productive and sustainable crop and ruminant agricultural systems which closes on October 24th. UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £20 million to improve productivity and sustainability across UK crop and ruminant production systems. Projects must be business-led and must contain at least one SME. CHAP can be involved in any number of projects as a RTO but are unable to lead any. SMEs engaging with CHAP partners and utilising its unique facilities is a win-win for this industry led funding competition.

The masterclass was very productive with several projects emerging from the discussions involving STC’s brand new Advanced Glasshouse Facility and the Vertical Farming Development Centre.

6th September 2018

Banging the drum for CHAP in Brussels

CHAP Chairman John Chinn Chairman spoke at the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Pesticides at the invitation of West Midlands Conservative MEP, Anthea McIntyre.
It provided him with an opportunity to emphasise the great challenges of the 21st century which are to produce more food from the same area, whilst protecting biodiversity and the threat that, without crop protection tools, farmers could lose 80 per cent of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant diseases. John said ‘I was able to make the point that rigorous testing and application protocols are very effective in protecting the public and the environment, although little attention is given to its other aims of effectively supporting productive and competitive agriculture and horticulture. I highlighted the fact that whilst the regulation has just started its eighth year, it has only brought to the market the equivalent of about one new active substance per year, including low-risk substances. The approach, therefore, is clearly failing to deliver for growers and stifles the availability of safer, more effective and lower risk pesticides’.


4th September 2018

Commissioning work on CHAP’s brand new E-Flows is well underway

The E-Flows, the first of its kind in Europe, will perform simulations of natural aquatic environments under controlled conditions. As plant products, such as pesticides, are developed, manufacturers will use the E-Flows to demonstrate that their products are safe for aquatic environments as part of higher tier testing. Organisations from all sectors will use the facility to understand the movement of their products through simulated natural water bodies and the potential effects they may have on the organisms in them. There has already been a great deal of interest in the E-Flows and by the agri-tech industry and researchers and CHAP expects there to see many large research and development projects undertaken at Sand Hutton. Its flexibility means that whichever water system is deemed to be at risk, it can be recreated on site to match the real life water body under review. This will not only be an important safety tool for higher tier risk assessments, but also a powerful marketing tool for new chemistries coming to market.


30th August 2018

CHAP’s iknife providing accurate molecular profile in seconds is much in demand

Rapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (REIMS) is a newly emerging technique that allows rapid characterisation of biological samples without any sample preparation.  At Newcastle University, CHAP scientists have used REIMS for Agri-tech applications including characterisation of weed populations that are resistant to herbicides and they have also used REIMS to distinguish different varieties of potato grown under conventional and organic methods.

An electrosurgical knife, known as an iknife, is used to vapourise the tissue, generating a smoke which is drawn into a mass spectrometer.  A fingerprint of compounds is produced which can be analysed to find biomarkers or used to build a library to enable the identification of unknown samples in real time.  Applications include food profiling and authenticity, real time identification of diseased tissue during surgery and identification of microbiological biotypes.

For more information please contact Neil Boonham: neil.boonham@newcastle.ac.uk

14th August 2018

CHAP leads the way with unique technology at Rothamsted

The LemnaTec Phenocenter in the CHAP Fine Phenotyping Lab is fitted with a range of advanced sensors including a chlorophyll fluorometer that allows the non-destructive measurement of key photosynthetic parameters. In a recent project the sensor was used to assess the impact of ‘take-all’ disease on wheat health. The sensor will be interest to industry / academic partners who need to assess the impact on photosynthetic efficiency of factors such as genotype and stress / disease or are developing products to improve plant performanc

In this picture the PhenoCenter is used to assess the impact of disease on photosynthesis in wheat in a take-all infected plant. Pixel colour reflects a key photosynthetic metric (FvFm), with green indicating lower scores.

For more information contact tom.ashfield@rothamsted .ac.uk

13th August 2018

Another exciting new service on offer from CHAP

The CHAP Resistance and Virulence Management Unit at Fera York has just taken delivery of an Oxford Nanopore Technologies PromethION system.  The Unit has existing capability using the MinION system (which has a single flow cell) and is developing protocols using nanopore sequencing for detection and monitoring of fungicide resistance and virulence in pathogen populations.  The advantage of nanopore sequencing is that it can perform direct long-read DNA sequencing so that multiple characteristics can be detected within and between populations.

The PromethION comprises 48 flow cells, each of which can be run separately or concurrently, on-demand and this will allow us to offer this technology as a high-throughput commercial service to the agricultural and horticultural industry for the first time.   The PromethION will work alongside several other high-throughput automated devices and data analytical capability within the Resistance and Virulence Management Unit to deliver diagnostic services at a cost and timescale which can support improved management of pest and disease risk in real-time.

For more information contact; judith.turner@fera.co.uk

9th August 2018

CHAP’s cutting edge-imaging equipment does great work

Our highly advanced imaging  technology in the CHAP Fine Phenotyping Laboratory, based at Rothamsted Research, provides partners with new, more efficient ways to quantify crop traits of interest, to detect stress / disease, and to assess the effectiveness of products designed to counter them. In a recent project involving a BSPP-funded summer student and scientists from Rothamsted, our multi-spectral imager has been used to quantify ‘take-all’ symptoms on infected wheat roots. The ability to accurately quantify such root infections will be of interest to researchers, breeders, and product developers who wish to assess new germplasm and control agents.

Disease detection on wheat roots using multi-spectral imaging. ‘Take-all’ infected plant on the left, a healthy control on the right. Pixels scored as disease are shown in blue, those as healthy root, in orange.

For more information contact tom.ashfield@rothamsted .ac.uk

3rd August 2018

A treat for bees


Work looking at developing profitable polycultural production models has been made possible at STC thanks to CHAP’s precision assisted strip-till cultivator. This piece of modern machinery is being used in multiple EU-funded projects to maintain yields whilst realising the benefits of cropping cereals in permanent clover understories that cover at least 50% of the field. By linking all operations to GPS tracking systems, we can return year-on-year to farm the same ‘strips’ in a field, whilst leaving the clover undisturbed. As clover is a favourite for pollinators, it’s perhaps no surprise that the bees approve of this one! All of STC’s work in this area is undertaken collaboratively with Yorkshire-based precision agriculture and machinery specialists, Manterra Ltd, ensuring that the very latest on-farm technology can be used to deliver sustainability gains in a way that is immediately accessible to farmers.

For more information please contact david.george@stc-nyorks.com

30th July 2018

Seven Crop Covers take root at Cranfield 

The first batch of cover crops for the BBSRC funded project `Using roots to bio-engineer soil`(Feb 2018-Jan 2021) is growing in the CHAP glasshouse in Cranfield. In this project Sarah De Baets (PI) and Csilla Hudek (Research Fellow) study how we can use cover crop roots to boost soil functions and prevent soil degradation. The main aim of the project  is to develop a model to select and combine complementary root traits in cover crops that prevent soil resource losses and improve crop growth conditions. To develop the model, root screening will be performed with 7 common cover crops grown in big soil lysimeters, filled with real soil, grown under controlled laboratory conditions. The plants are grown in sandy clay loam with a subsoil compaction treatment. A series of root and soil properties will be carefully determined, and we will use a DNA technique, qPCR, to determine the proportions of root biomass of each species within a plant community.

22nd July 2018

Tomatoes lead the way at STC

STC is well known to the protected edibles sectors, and has been running numerous and varied projects with tomatoes as a focus for many years. It’s perhaps fitting, therefore, that the first two projects to be run through the new CHAP Advanced Glasshouse facility at STC will focus on this crop – one looking at nutrient and water use efficiency across tomato ‘lines’, and the other investigating remote sensing of crop diseases. The first is a large Horizon 2020 project (TOMRES – http://www.tomres.eu/), with STC involvement being led by Dr Rhydian Beynon-Davies, Head of Novel Growing Systems on site. The second project, involving STC Pathologist, Kirsty Wright, has been funded by Innovate UK to test eNose technology under glass.

For more information please contact david.george@stc-nyorks.com

18th July 2018

A delegation from BASF visit Sand Hutton 

A team from BASF visited CHAP to find out more about our current capabilities and to discuss potential future collaborations. They were given a tour of the E-Flows by senior Fera scientist, Dr Rachel Benstead, before discussing a number of areas of interest in addition to how the mesocosm can help them deal with the current complex regulatory requirements. Areas discussed included controlled environments, synthetic and biological crop protection; digital and data solutions for pest, pathogen and weed surveillance, precision applications, soil health and the use of our mobile labs. The CHAP team will be following up on these issues in the next few months.

16th July 2018

It’s all go at Cranfield Soil Health Unit

Following the completion of the commissioning project, the Soil Health Facility is in full flow with five projects starting this month. A large BBSRC funded project will over a period of three years look at the efficacy of roots of different cover crops to bioengineer soil. All 24 soil lysimeters have been filled again and crops are beginning to emerge. Meanwhile, on the benches, we have four projects starting which make use of the integrated Agri-EPI sensor platform. The first two projects, led through Agri-EPI, are (1) looking at early detection of mildew in onions, and (2) determining the canopy structure of different weeds for spray deposition modelling. The other two projects are funded under the new Johnson Matthey Agritech Partnership Programme which offers intensive support to accelerate the market translation of high impact innovations. These projects evaluate “Water Retainer” to prevent soil moisture loss and increase crop yields, and the efficacy of endophytic bacteria to facilitate nitrogen fixing in crops.

12th July 2018

First steps to collaboration -Yorkshire Water visits CHAP

Representatives from across Yorkshire Water with interests in water quality, drainage, catchment and waste visited CHAP at the Sand Hutton HQ. They were provided with an overview of the current CHAP capabilities and toured the E-Flows mesocosm with Rachel Benstead. A number of areas of potential interest and collaboration across the plant growth, crop protection, soil and aquatic environment nexus arose from a lively and wide-ranging discussion and will be followed up in due course.