As the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs commented at the Oxford Farming Conference last week “…if we want to preserve that which we cherish – a thriving agricultural sector, a healthy rural economy, beautiful landscapes, rich habitats for wildlife, a just society and fair economy – then we need to be able to shape change rather than seeking to resist it.”
We start the year with a Pollinator that aims to help farmers understand how to cost and value – in financial terms – the natural capital assets they have and also the contextual specificity of the land use. For example, would a reservoir in dry Norfolk be “worth” more than one on the Somerset Levels which is prone to flooding? And how can a farmer assign a real financial value to the benefits, both to the environment and the business, to that asset? Similarly wildflower margins that encourage pollinating insects – what quantified benefits can be seen for crop yield?
From the work that we have been doing we know that farmers face real difficulties in calculating (or even estimating) return on investment (ROI) of some new practices or technologies, and this is a real barrier to their adoption and commercial integration into their business. Farmers have invested significant time and energy over the years into environmental stewardship – but how do they quantify the benefit of maintaining a healthy balance within the ecosystem? Join us at the Norwich Research Park on January 24th to discuss it. We’ll also be talking about agricultural audit systems using blockchain technologies at our Pollinator in April.
We are also looking forward to welcoming a new member to our team to help progress projects that will allow us to better understand these complex questions.
The desire for change is being underpinned by an increase in funding for innovation. According to Saville investment in agri-tech has increased from £50m in 2010 to £850m in 2016, this shows the confidence that the investment community has in the sector and of its increasing importance.
Improving the dialogue between producers, researchers, engineers and technologists to ensure that the agri-tech being developed is fit for purpose will be a continuing theme for us in 2018.
Our developing events programme for the year can be viewed here and our growing portfolio of industry reports can be viewed here. As always it is your involvement that makes the difference so if you are ready to embrace and direct change then get involved.