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Measuring the environment – where do you start?

Agri-TechE Blog

Many early-adopter farmers are using new technologies to do help increase efficiency and manage resources better, however there are new potential opportunities when it comes to environmental stewardship and farmers’ participation in the new ELMs programme.

The replacement of the Basic Payment Scheme in the UK by ELMs – the Environment and Land Management Scheme – is designed to support and incentivise farmers to make management decisions to benefit the environment.

Yet complexities remain in that measuring various environmental parameters can be incredibly challenging. And tracking changes in their status over a reasonable timeframe can be expensive, inaccurate, or just impractical.

Opportunity is ripe

So the opportunity is ripe for new tools, technologies and systems to help farmers, funders and policy-makers demonstrate their interventions are really making a difference.
Some already exist – such as insect traps, water quality meters, even a simple spade to carry out worm counts.

Others are in development – perhaps using computer vision, artificial intelligence and trained algorithms to identify changes in soil structure and quality, identify pollinating insects, or imaging solutions to map ground cover.

Lizzie Emmett and Jack Greenhalgh measure water quality using pond acoustics
Lizzie Emmett and Jack Greenhalgh measure water quality using pond acoustics

Yet others remain still to be developed.

And most likely will be inspired from tech from different sectors – automotive, aerospace, earth observation, for example.

Technology – as we have said many times – is also agnostic as to its application, as are the crucial data analytics which will reveal the progress made by farmers’ collective efforts across the UK.

Experiences of farmers

Next month we will be at Rothamsted for an opportunity to discuss and learn about the agri-tech enablers for ELMs, and how they can help deliver more sustainable approach to production and environmental management.

We’re particularly welcoming those from other sectors to understand the potential opportunities, but we’ll also be hearing from some farmers who have participated in ELMs pilots, as well as thought leaders across the different ELMs themes of biodiversity, soils, water, woodland and ecosystem services.

Soil Moisture Sense monitoring
Soil moisture can give an indication of soil health (Credit Soil Moisture Sense)

As well as an opportunity to explore some of the technologies already delivering in the ELMs-space, there will also be the opportunity to hear about and – crucially – discuss with Defra their plans for co-design of projects with farmers, and their ambitions for roll-out over the transition period.

Technology alone isn’t the answer. But it is a key enabler – so come and join us and find how agriculture can be empowered by metrics and for “measure to manage” to become a daily reality.

Agri-Tech and ELMs – The Innovation Enablers – 22nd March 2022