A major report has revealed why the UK’s rate of agricultural productivity growth is lower than many of its major competitors and makes recommendations for how an evidence-based approach can reap dividends.
The report from the Agricultural Productivity Working Group Food & Drink Sector Council (FDSC) was shaped by a broad spectrum of experts and stakeholders from across the industry.
It warns that if the opportunities offered by new policy frameworks and technology are not seized by industry and government that the UK is in danger of being left behind by competitors. Denying consumers and the UK domestic food industry affordable, sustainably produced agricultural goods.
Sir Peter Kendall, Agricultural Productivity Working Group Chairman said: “If you look at our competitors, in 10 years’ time they are going to be in a far better positions than we are in terms of driving the level of ambition for skills and training. So, the question is do we acknowledge that we have a productivity challenge and do we, as an industry, have the ambition to reverse this trend?
A centre-piece of the recommendations is the establishment of the Evidence for Farming Initiative (EFI) to create a single source of evidence based practice, drawing from expertise globally to highlight what works. The report also calls for an expansion of farmer to farmer learning and for the industry to embrace benchmarking through key performance indicators (KPIs).
Evidence for Farming Initiative will provide
EFI will be industry-facing, focusing on the collation of evidence-based best practice recommendations, commercial testing of advice to provide quality assurance, and wide-scale dissemination of information for use by decision-makers.
- A single physical and digital hub for evidence-based best practice
- Scientific rigour, independence and objectivity
- Farm and practitioner-led identification of research needs and generation of evidence.
- Dynamic analysis, review of the available evidence and identification of gaps.
- A comprehensive and co-ordinated means of disseminating knowledge through multiple
- Recommendations to practitioners, decision makers, funding bodies, consultants,
advisers, colleges and assurance schemes.
Whilst the initiative should be led and owned by industry stakeholders, it could play a powerful role in identifying innovation priorities and support evidence-based policy-making by government. Secure sharing of farm data via EFI will enhance impact, allowing monitoring of progress, both individually and as a wider industry.
Coordination of demonstration farms
The recommendation also identifies the opportunity to better co-ordinate existing activities and demonstrate best practice via demonstration farms. It identified the potential to grow the network to provide more opportunities for farmers to learn from each other.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “I am very pleased to support the APWG recommendations, which will offer a significant boost to a sector that offers so much to Britain at a time of great change and opportunity. A welcome feature of the partnership we’ve formed around the productivity challenge has been the full involvement of industry and government. This must be maintained as we move to act on these recommendations.”
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE said: “This report reflects a lot of work by industry experts who collectively brought unique and important views to the discussions around future agricultural productivity. With the rapid rate of change facing the industry, demonstrating leadership to UK and international policy-makers, supply chain actors and farmers is crucial, and hopefully this report will contribute to a future vision for the industry.”
More information about the report can be found here “Productivity the key to unlocking future opportunities in Agriculture”
A podcast featuring an interview with Peter Kendall can be found here.
Peter Kendall (AHDB, Chair) Jonathan Birnie (Birnie Consulting, project manager) Nick Whelan (Dale Farm) Andy Richardson (Volac) Tim Breitmeyer/ Susan Twining (CLA) Helen Ferrier/ Jonathan Scurlock (NFU) David Caffall (AIC) Kate Rowell (QMS) Liz Quigley (AB Agri) Tom Hind (AHDB) Dave Ross (Agri-Epi) Belinda Clarke (Agri-TechE) Caroline Povey (DEFRA) Stephen Fernando (DEFRA) Helen Fox/ Kathryn Brown (BEIS) Andy Cureton (BBSRC) Calum Murray (Innovate UK)