The theme for REAP 2019 was ‘One Agriculture’ with the recognition that improving the productivity of agriculture has the potential also to be good for animal welfare, human health and that of the planet.
Getting to net zero through increased productivity
The day started with a Farmers’ Breakfast, focusing on Getting to Net Zero. The interactive session was facilitated by Dr Helen Ferrier, Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Adviser for the National Farmers Union (NFU). She commented that agriculture is uniquely placed to be part of the solution, as both an emissions source and a sink. She said: “As farmers we have a special responsibility to protect carbon reserves already in our soils and vegetation, but not at the cost of reducing our capacity to feed consumers at every price point.”
The report covers the outcomes from this session as well as the presentations and wider discussion of how food production needs to be considered as a system that is more than just the sum of its parts.
Innovation at the intersections
Agri-TechE Director Dr Belinda Clarke commented: “Innovation is about finding solutions to problems and this often happens at the ‘intersections’ where different perspectives give new insights.
“Our membership is united through a passion and a commitment to improving the productivity and sustainability of food systems, but bring diversity through their experiences, skills, technologies, views, and ways of thinking.
“All have major and potentially differing contributions to make to the challenges facing the industry, and bringing this together within the cluster creates the opportunity for innovative responses.
“We chose ‘One Agriculture’ as the topic for this conference soon after REAP 2018. The idea was to get people thinking about the dynamic between the natural and cultivated environment as an integrated system, with nutrients cycling between the different functions, and where change in one aspect creates an effect on other elements in the system.
Encouraging a systems approach
“It is crucial in food production that policy is underpinned by sound science. However, there are still considerable gaps in knowledge. There is need to consider science from a more integrated perspective. To broaden the reductionist approach that has characterised knowledge generation and discovery research.
“Good solutions require a cross-disciplinary approach and future solutions are unlikely to reside solely in one part of the industry The need for a systems approach to the global industry is now gaining traction.
“We have in our network the innovative farmers, the globally-leading research, the exciting new technologies and the enabling ecosystem to help make One Agriculture a reality.”