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Down on the farm… The day Bill Gates brought science and technology to Countryfile

Posted by Louise Palmer on 14th February 2018

Dum de dum de dum de dum… Yes, another episode of the world’s longest-running radio soap opera begins once again, bringing us 13 minutes on the trials and tribulations of rural life in the village of Ambridge.

But it’s not all sheep dipping, pub quizzes at The Bull, and summer fetes in The Archers. The popular radio programme isn’t shy about covering the science and technology of agricultural matters on a regular basis.

From Adam trialling high-tech drones to monitor crops on Home Farm, to Pip and Ruth checking out the latest batch milking parlour systems, these modern farmers always seem be on top of the latest trends.

It seems science and technology is also alive and well in the real world of agriculture, as the BBC’s Countryfile highlighted recently. The programme on Sunday 11th February promised the usual foray into the countryside, covering new wetlands in Cambridgeshire, the secret life of truffles and a snapshot into the life of rural vets…

And then up popped Bill Gates, green wellies and all.

Gates highlighted how the UK has led the way in agricultural innovation, creating some of the world’s most efficient farms following the agricultural revolution. It’s this reputation that attracted The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to invest in research at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh to help improve the livelihoods of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

In fact, as Gates pointed out, his Foundation has contributed more than one billion US dollars into research in the UK so far, with a large proportion focused on agricultural work.

Yet Countryfile emphasised that while the UK’s status as a world-leading research and development centre may be high, we’re simply not making the most of it. So, it was encouraging to see the spotlight put on new ways that UK farmers are bringing technology to dairy farms:

  • Cutting-edge technology that measures every chew in the milking parlour, tracking how much cows eat on a daily basis, then comparing this to how much milk they produce to understand the efficiency of milk production
  • Thermal imaging technology to check a calf’s health using heat detection, displayed on a tablet computer. Insights include measuring how much pressure a cow puts on the ground as it walks, which could indicate whether it might be lame
  • Technology that measures the density of grass and the quality of the crop offered in the grazing cycle

But that’s enough tech and science for now. I fancy checking out a wagtail nest or watching some fluffy owls fledge. When does the next series of Springwatch start…?

Louise Palmer

Deftly switching between business and consumer accounts, the focus for Louise remains the same; how can Wildfire tell clients’ stories in a way that is faithful, relevant and engaging? Her wide technology PR experience makes Louise an agile and versatile Associate Director and fantastic resource for the team, combining the strategic management of PR programmes with a hands-on approach to get under the skin of clients and motivate her teams.