This week has seen farmers, researchers, tech developers and industry come together at Cereals 2018, one of the UK’s biggest annual arable agriculture trade events.
The emphasis was on preparation for the future, harnessing technological solutions, and using the next few years to make businesses as robust as possible.
Of course, the challenges facing the industry are huge, uncertain and unprecedented. But innovation can help transform challenge into opportunity.
The participants in our Innovation Insights session at Cereals showcased a diverse range of research, technologies, products and services and the huge buzz in the marquee during the session showed there is huge appetite to embrace change through adoption of new solutions.
The series of fast-paced, insightful overviews spanned the value chain from discovery research to on-farm solutions.
Agronomex, finalist at the 2017 GROW business plan competition now has 50 organisations prepared to trial theirprototype solutions for better waste management.
fieldMargin (speakers in the 2015 REAP Start-Up Showcase) announced two new products to improve time and efficiency on-farm. Solutions to control costs, manage risk and benchmarking
Others such as Yagro, Stable and Agrimetrics showed how innovation isn’t just about new gadgets.
We heard some rumblings at Cereals, propagated by the media, that the Brexit uncertainty has led to a reluctance by farmers to adopt new innovations. But that’s not our experience, not throughout the four years since we launched, and certainly not at Cereals this year. There will, of course, always be ne’ersayers. But the feedback we are hearing on the ground is not one of negativity.
We are seeing an increasing appetite for new technologies to help increase efficiencies, raise agricultural productivity and enhance environmental benefits.
Soils health seemed higher than ever on the Cereals agenda, with visitors to the soil pit seeing first-hand the importance of good soil structure, the value of worms and the impact of deep rooting crops.
As one delegate put it, this week saw the most significant Cereals event ever held. The pending Agriculture Bill, the recent announcement of £90M of investment in innovations to “Transform Food Production” and of course Brexit, mean that it has never been more important to be proactive, positive and prepared for the future.
Brexit an accelerant
The consistent message at Cereals was to encourage everyone to use the next few years (some ambitiously even called it a “honeymoon period”) to prepare for changes to the farm support system and look at new ways of working in and with the industry. Another Cereals delegate pointed out that Brexit is an accelerant, not a catalyst.
This is a journey that began before Brexit and one that will continue after we have left the EU. But now is the time to act to prepare for change.
This is not the time to talk our industry down, to encourage the doom-mongers and apportion blame.
It is the time to instil confidence in Government and others that this is an industry that will rise to challenges and embrace changes. We have the technology. Literally.