BRITISH ONION GROWERS EMPOWER AGRITECH COMPANY TO LEAD CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH

MAJOR players in the British onion sector have partnered to develop a pioneering research programme into preventing crop loss from Fusarium Basal Rot (FBR), a devastating infection caused by a soil-borne fungus.

MAJOR players in the British onion sector have partnered to develop a pioneering research programme into preventing crop loss from Fusarium Basal Rot (FBR), a devastating infection caused by a soil-borne fungus.


‘FUSED - Integrated fusarium early diagnostic and management' is a 24-month, £1 million project spearheaded by Lincoln-based R&D company B-hive Innovations, an SME that is developing a reputation for research excellence and continual improvement in the fresh produce sector.

Supported by Innovate UK, under The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' (DEFRA) Farming Innovation Programme, the research aims to define better ways of detecting and managing FBR infection, particularly at the earliest stages of onion production. FBR disease can attribute up to 40% of crop losses for growers, which currently costs the onion industry more than £10 million a year.

B-hive has been instrumental in coordinating the research plans and attracting external funding.

Dr Andy Gill, general manager of B-hive Innovations and FUSED project lead, said: "B-hive is delighted to be coordinating efforts to combat FBR infection in onions. The project will bring together many members of the British onion sector who share a common desire to prevent FBR, each bringing their expertise that can help to drive innovation.

"By engaging with the grower base at the beginning of the research process, it will enable us to develop solutions that are fit for purpose, a key mission that drives B-hive's research projects."

B-hive will be working alongside research experts including agronomists from VCS Agronomy and The Allium and Brassica Centre, academic researchers from the University of Warwick, agri-tech innovation centre CHAP (Crop Health and Protection), and members of the research team at RSK-ADS.

Moulton Bulb, G's Growers and Stourgarden and Bedfordshire Growers will provide additional support from their presence in the onion growing sector.

As well as overall project management, B-hive will be contributing computer vision expertise to the project in efforts to detect bulbs affected by FBR in the field.

Dr. Mercedes Torres Torres, B-hive's head of machine learning, said: "Our goal is to detect infected onions during growth and at the earliest possible stages, and we are excited by the challenge this brings. We'll be drawing on our considerable expertise in remote sensing, including use of hyperspectral imaging in agriculture, and are confident that we can find better ways of detecting disease."

Vidyanath (Vee) Gururajan, managing director of B-hive, said: "B-hive has built a portfolio of research projects to solve agriculturally-relevant problems, building a team of experts with skills that can be applied across the sector. This latest project is a crucially important undertaking to increase sustainability of the British onion producing sector, and we are privileged that Innovate UK and our project partners trust us to take the lead on this research."

For more information on B-hive, visit https://www.b-hiveinnovations.co.uk/.

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