“A virus,” according to Monty Python, “is what we doctors call Very Very Small.”
Yet as the last six months have shown, the ‘Very Very Small’ can have impacts on a massive scale. And just as the microscopic can dramatically influence the global, similarly actions and interactions on a big scale can affect much smaller systems and processes.
It is the inter-connectedness of nature, across different scales, that makes understanding farming and agri-food production systems so complex.
Scientific research has often taken a “reductionist” approach to understanding how things work – paring down to the bare bones of the genetic make-up, or the key processes in a single system. As it is both intellectually challenging and technically difficult to consider how natural systems on different scales work and interact with each other in a living landscape.
But we think it’s time to try.
To achieve the global ambitions for agriculture, food production and land management, we need a much better understanding of how systems at these different scales operate and interact.
An ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms and their physical environment –underpinned, crucially, by the inter-connectedness and inter-dependencies of all its members.
Increasingly, we are realising the importance of linking the impact of the “micro-scape” – bacteria, fungi, insects, soil particles, root exudates – on the “landscape” or catchment and vice versa and this has inspired the theme for REAP 2020.
This need to think across multi-level scales has parallels with how innovation ecosystems operate as well. For example, by facilitating the linking up of smaller start-up businesses, individual research projects and consultants with the larger farmers, agri-businesses and investors – we are helping them to develop and bring benefit to the wider, global agri-tech system.
We’ll be showcasing our unique agri-tech ecosystem at REAP.
Just as in nature, the different scales in an innovation ecosystem need to be managed and understood in conjunction with each other, rather than thinking they all operate in isolation. The coming together at REAP, we believe, is a key enabler for that to happen.
REAP 2020 will be bringing together an international audience to explore how agri-tech to helping us to understand how the ‘Very Very Small’ impacts on the ‘Very Very Big’ in the agricultural and food production ecosystem – and the emerging research that is helping to inform that thinking.
We’ll also be welcoming international delegations, such as members from Oost NL in the Netherlands, who offer opportunities for members of the ecosystem to realise their ambitions on a global scale.
So come and join us – see how agri-tech is moving from lab to field and helping us to develop new types of food systems, learn how the smallest bacterial population can wreak havoc on a herd, or how landscape level thinking can influence soils health. And see some of the latest technologies to help monitor, measure and manage the different scales at which our agri-food system operates.