From grass leys to e-seeders and robots to weather stations, Agri-TechE and many of our members were out in force at the Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Conference and Show last week in north Hertfordshire. (See our Twitter feed to learn more – and how we took “time” to talk about the REAP 2021 conference!)
Organised by farmers for farmers (in this case, the forward-thinking Cherry family), Groundswell is fast gaining traction as the go-to event with the relaxed feel but razor-sharp thinking and a determined focus by farmers on change for the better.
Once visitors had got over the excitement (really!) of being out and about in real life, the initial giddiness was soon replaced by information gathering, knowledge exchange and sharing with some of the UK’s leading farmers. The seminar marquees were full – mostly standing-room only – and the exhibitor stands were buzzing, while the walks and demos gave some much needed real-world perspectives.
And a number of myths were busted at Groundswell 2021.
One visitor to our stand – new-to-agriculture and attending their first trade event – commented on the concentration of farmers, all united around a common goal – that of improvement and “doing things better.”
This unity, however, resulted from an eclectic and heterogenous group of farmers. Some own or manage big estates, some run smaller mixed farms, others are practising permaculture on smaller holdings as far north as Orkney.
A very elegant busting of the myth that only a certain type of farmer can or will take a regenerative agriculture approach.
The role of science and technology to support this approach was very much in evidence – it isn’t about letting Mother Nature just go mad, it is about a mindful, deliberate approach to sensitive holistic management. Using data to inform decisions, robotics and automation to tread lightly – but accurately – around crops and livestock, and understanding the biology and chemistry underpinning soil and feed amendments to reduce carbon emissions and improve performance and productivity.
Another myth busted – regenerative agriculture is more than a philosophy; it needs good science, robust technology a carefully curated understanding of the systems.
And the final myth was about atmosphere and that famous “festival” vibe of Groundswell. Yes, there was a beer tent. Yes, there was a stand selling hummus wraps (alongside other more familiar food options we expect at agricultural trade shows!), and yes, there was music in the evening of Day 1. And rumour even speaks of some overnight camping in cars, tents and caravans.
But as a way of bringing together the serious change agents of the future in the industry – those farmers and technology enablers committed to making a difference, doing things better, and having the curiosity and open-mindedness to prepare for the future … it was certainly an event worth celebrating.
Hang out the bunting for all those committed to doing differently – and doing better – and long live the festival vibe!