Opportunity for Agri-Food companies to take part in the second Agri-Food Study Group with the Mathematical Sciences

Posted on 18/07/2017

KTN is inviting Agri-Food companies to take part in a three-day Study Group with maths experts to stimulate innovation in this exciting field.

In collaboration with the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, we will be hosting the Second Agri-Food Study Group with the Mathematical Sciences in Edinburgh on 21st – 23rd February 2018.

At this stage we are inviting Agri-Food industry organisations of all sizes to get in touch if they would like to find out how they can participate. We are looking for companies with an industry challenge that could potentially be solved by the mathematical sciences. Please get in touch as soon as possible, by contacting Matt Butchers and David Telford who can explain more about the event and what could be taken through to the February Study Group.



Although Agri-Food might have traditionally been viewed by some as a low-tech industry, the reality is very different. The Agri-Food industry is making rapid advances to adopt cutting-edge technology, to help it address the challenges it faces, such as feeding a rising world population, reducing environmental impacts, and improving food quality and safety. For example, agriculture is already utilising cutting edge technologies such as satellite imaging to monitor crop growth, and robots to milk cows, and many other technologies are under development and likely to be introduced in the coming years.

As with other industries, all these technologies generate massive data sets, and have the potential to make food production systems more complex. Thus, there is an increasing need for agriculture to work with other sectors to turn ‘data into decisions’ that can help the farmer.

At the KTN Mathematics in Agriculture Workshop at Harper Adams in 2015, Professor Graeme Wake commented that “Modern-day applied mathematics can be used with high impact on farm systems and precision agriculture. It provides excellent decision-support tools and brings a degree of rigour to the industry, which has often been lacking in the past. The agricultural industry has been relatively late in choosing to bring mathematics to bear on the processes involved”.


What we did in the First Agri-Food Study Group with the Mathematical Sciences – January 2017

The KTN staff and members of their Industrial Mathematics group worked with the University of Bath’s Institute for Mathematical Innovation (IMI) to organise a study group. The Agri-Food Study Group brought together over 40 mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists to work on challenges presented by representatives from the Agri-Food sector over the course of three days. The Study Group which ran from 16-18 January 2017, and was hosted by the IMI and sponsored by Innovate UK.

Three agri-food challenges were presented at the event, namely helping farmers to optimise the value of the pigs they sell (Innovent Technology) improving cocoa yields for the chocolate industry (Mondelez International), and refining the design of a hydroponics system for crop production (Phytoponics Ltd). Further details about these challenges are detailed here.

These challenges required varied expertise from across the mathematical sciences, and it was fascinating to see the three agri-food company representatives working closely with the maths experts over three full days to try and solve the problems presented.

The event concluded with a presentation of some preliminary findings highlighting the initial solutions that the mathematicians had identified, and these will now be developed further and presented in a final report to the company representatives, and further potential collaborative opportunities will be explored.

Feedback on the event was very positive; Willie Thomson, Director of Innovent Technology, said: “Taking part in the study group was a really positive experience. I found it a fun, fascinating process and it certainly has opened my eyes to the opportunities offered by applied mathematics to agriculture. Thanks to you all for your hard work; hopefully we can find a way to continue this interaction in the near future.


Get in contact to find out how to get involved in the Second Agri-Food Study Group with the Mathematical Sciences – February 2018.