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Alasdair Hamilton

Consul General & Deputy Governor to the Pitcairn Islands

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

21st September 2017 Auckland, New Zealand

Space Science & Cows

In this blog I will provide an update on the annual UK-China Space Workshop, recently held in Edinburgh, as well as talk about cows and innovative technology that monitors their health. The two are not really connected. But there is a good story to tell, so please bear with me.

The annual UK-China Space Workshop is a meeting of researchers, academics, engineers and industry reps who discuss new areas of collaboration that will result in scientific partnerships. It is managed by STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL Space) and Beihang University in Beijing, and supported by the Science & Innovation Network. This year’s meeting took place in Edinburgh from 6 to 8 September and covered astronomy, education, satellites, agricultural technology and export license controls.

Signatories to the MOU which established a Centre for Space Science and Space Culture

In touching on the highlights; in astronomy we heard from Jodrell Bank Observatory and their evolving relationship with the Chinese Academy of Sciences on the Square Kilometre Array (a colossal global science project). With satellites – partnerships were made on the establishment of a joint centre for Cubesat technology. With Agri-tech we heard how the UK Company Assimila uses satellite data to map the spread of crop pests and disease in Africa allowing farmers to take preventative action. Given that 40% of crops are lost annually to insects and fungal infections this is an important food security initiative supported by the UK Space Agency under their International Partnerships Programme. On Export Controls delegates were given a comprehensive picture of the range of goods and services that fall under dual use technology. And with Education, in what could be said was the highlight of the workshop, an MOU for the establishment of a new Centre for Space Science and Space Culture between the National Space Academy and a Chinese Education Consortium was signed. This centre will, amongst other things, allow for UK and Chinese students to attend summer schools and create science experiments to be conducted onboard Chinese Space Craft. Nottingham Ningbo university will partner the NSA in the running of their programmes. We expect the Centre to enrich the bilateral space relationship between the UK and China.

National Space Academy Classroom Experiments

And now for the cows. While I was in Edinburgh I visited the new(ish) Agri-EPI Centre on the city outskirts to look at the support they are providing to farmers and businesses with precision agriculture and intelligent machinery. I was taken to a farm near Cowdenbeath where I met with the beauties below. You will notice the collars they are wearing. This is technology created by academics from the University of Strathclyde and monitors the chewing time of cows. If a cow does not chew for approximately 700 minutes per day there is the possibility that something is wrong with the animal. The collar sends an alert (text message) to the farmer if this is the case. It is quite ingenious and is the type of smart farm technology Innovate UK are looking for partnerships with the China Rural Technology Development Centre. Also, did you know that a happy dairy cow can produce up to 18% more milk if milked (by a robot) at the cow’s own time and choosing? Well, now you do. Happy cows = more milk. Everyone’s a winner, including smart farm technology.

Happy cows, with collars

About Alasdair Hamilton

Alasdair took up his role as Consul General Auckland and Deputy Governor of the Pitcairn Islands in January 2021. His previous role was Head of Science & Innovation at the…

Alasdair took up his role as Consul General Auckland and Deputy Governor of the Pitcairn Islands in January 2021.

His previous role was Head of Science & Innovation at the British Embassy in Beijing. Prior to that he was Deputy Head of Ukraine Team in London. Alasdair has done a range of political, consular and trade support roles in previous postings to Accra, Jerusalem, Jakarta, Freetown, Port Moresby and Kuala Lumpur.

Alasdair is married to Erie Hamilton and they have three children.

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