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Groundswell 2024 – see us there

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Groundswell 2024 will demonstrate just how far farming has changed. The Regenerative Agriculture Festival brings together farmers, environmental organisations and others in a productive conversation about sustainable agriculture.

Similar in format to a music festival, the event has many different stages, which are just as likely to feature commercial livestock farmers sharing their migration to Net Zero as evangelistic rewilders!

The event provides a forum to learn about the theory and practical applications of regenerative farming and is hosted by the Cherry family on their farm in Hertfordshire. John and Paul Cherry have farmed for over thirty years, converting their mixed farm to a no-till system in 2010. 

Groundswell 2024 takes place at Lannock Manor Farm, Hertfordshire, SG4 7EE, on the 26th & 27th of June 2024. Tickets go on sale at 10am on 22nd April 2024.

Agri-TechE will have a stand at the festival – number MS 3 which is in the Indoor Marquee Stands East, opposite the food court – and are taking part in the BASIS Knowledge Trail. Visit our stand and fill out a fun questionnaire to collect points! Many of our members will also have a presence – full details below. We look forward to seeing you there.

Groundswell

ADAS: one of the UK’s largest independent providers of agricultural and environmental applied/strategic research and consultancy.

AF Group: one of the UK’s largest agricultural purchasing co-operatives working with thousands of farmers across the UK.

AHDB: a statutory levy board, funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain and managed as an independent organisation.

AngloAmerican: producing a low chloride, multi-nutrient fertiliser suitable for organic use that can boost crop yields and aid more sustainable farming.

Barenbrug: a leading grass breeder, producing more than 3,000 tonnes of UK grown grass seed each year, distributed to both amenity and agricultural markets through an efficient network.

Barenbrug at Groundswell 2023
Barenbrug at Groundswell 2023

Birkett Long: specialist lawyers, patent attorneys, IFAs and HR advisers offering the full range of advice.

Brown & Co: leading provider of agency, professional and consultancy services across rural, commercial and residential property, agriculture and the environment.

Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing: providers of a database of curated scientific content to empower the agricultural community to build a sustainable future.

Cranfield University: recognised worldwide by industry, government and academe for its research and teaching in food biosciences, soil, digital and sustainability.

Eurofins AgriGenomics: a genomics services supplier with a wide range of tailored, high throughput genotyping solutions.

FramFarmers: providers of a purchasing, grain marketing and administrative function for 1,250 farming businesses across the UK, acting as an extension to individual farm offices.

Future Biogas: the largest producer of biomethane in the UK. It aims to design and operate the next generation of Anaerobic Digestion plants delivering Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) while helping to decarbonise UK farming.

Hutchinsons: a leading agronomy company with over 200 arable and horticultural agronomists nationwide, providing growers with the highest standards of agronomic advice and an unrivalled range of services.

Map of Ag: the company’s Pure Farming data permissioning platform allows farms and industry to find, access, interoperate, re-use and above all control how and where their data is used.

NIAB: a major international centre for plant research, crop evaluation and agronomy – a unique national resource, with nearly 100 years of experience and an internationally recognised reputation for independence, innovation and integrity.

NIAB at Groundswell 2023
NIAB at Groundswell 2023

PES Technologies: soil health measurement tool provides biological, chemical and physical soil health indicators, including microbial biomass and soil organic matter content, in-field in five minutes, straight to your mobile phone.

Ponda: developing next-generation biomaterials from paludiculture crop typha, with the aim of connecting the creation of healthier textiles for the fashion industry to the urgent need for carbon locking land restoration.

Rothamsted Research: the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for nearly 170 years.

Savills: a real estate services provider with an international network of more than 600 offices and associates, offering a broad range of specialist advisory, management and transactional services to clients all over the world.

Sentry: one of the largest national farming companies in the UK, with 20,000 hectares of land under cultivation for clients throughout the country, annually growing over 400,000 tonnes of local produce.

SRUC: Scotland’s Rural College provides education, research, and consultancy (through SAC Consulting) to create a natural economy fuelled by responsible use of the world’s natural resources.

Timac Agro: a specialist in plant and animal nutrition with extensive expertise in crop nutrition, soil conditioning and fertiliser efficiency, offering a specific range of fertilisers adapted to local soils and farmers’ needs.

University of Essex: bringing expertise in both plant science and and automation, giving businesses access to world-leading research, unlocking funding opportunities, and providing in-depth, evidence-led business advice.

University of Reading: provides world-class expertise and facilities in agri-tech, encompassing many disciplines across the whole University, with specialisms in crop and livestock science, sustainable land management, international development, and applied economics and marking.

Yagro: creator of a platform and tools with the aim of driving insight and productivity by making cutting edge data and analytics capability broadly available across the agricultural sector.

Groundswell 2022 [credit Groundswell]
Groundswell 2022 [credit: Groundswell]

Food, Farming and Nature Conservation consensus at Groundswell

Agri-TechE Article
Rothamsted Research Rothamsted Research

“Producing for food, nature and climate” was the phrase frequently used by Janet Hughes of Defra as she gave a pragmatic presentation to a packed tent at Groundswell 2023. Once a fringe event, the topics discussed at the regenerative agriculture festival have become increasingly mainstream with a greater consensus growing over key issues.

Flex and adapt approach

Janet was keen to reassure farmers, and others in the Big Top, that a less prescriptive approach will be adopted with the new Environment Land Management schemes (ELMs) – offering greater flexibility to pick and mix and to create a tailored scheme that works for the farm.

In particular, she talked about the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, reiterating that this is to continue since its improvement through farmer input, and is now considered efficient. Defra aims to deliver its outcomes through this scheme.

For the Sustainable Farming Incentive, the learning points from over 4000 farm trials are being incorporated to expand the scope. The standards will not be ‘bundled’ as first devised but instead offered as a portfolio for farmers and their advisers to select from.

Janet Hughes, Defra
Janet Hughes, Defra

She says: “We are testing and learning as we go, balancing the need for ‘certainty’ that farmers require for planning with a ‘flex and adapt’ approach to make the schemes good and fit for purpose.” Her vision is to develop a farming system with feedback loops that deliver productivity and prosperity while delivering on food production and the environment.

She reassured the audience that 530 schemes had been accepted for the higher tier Countryside Stewardship and the standard had been good. There are plans to increase access and also to offer a hybrid approach to allow smaller projects within a wider mid tier scheme to be eligible for support under the higher tier.

She also acknowledged that there was a plethora of grants and schemes and Defra is looking at ways to make it easier to find the relevant support and make an application.

Growing consensus

The next session looked at how there is a growing consensus over the direction of travel for farming.

The Food, Farming and Nature Consensus had evolved from discussions at the Oxford Farming Conference, it aims to bring all stakeholders together to find common ground to tackle systemic issues.

All signatories to the pledge agreed upon three shared principles:

  1. A healthy natural environment underpins food security.
  2. Farming has a vital role in producing food but also in tackling the nature, climate and health crises.
  3. Diversity in all its forms will enable resilience and innovation in the face of growing economic and environmental challenges.

Helen Browning, Katie Lo Luxton, Lord Benyon, Stuart Roberts
Helen Browning, Katie-Jo Luxton, Lord Benyon, Daniel Zeichner, Stuart Roberts

After a scene-setting by Katie-Jo Luxton, RSPB Director for Global Conservation, three political figures – Rt Hon Lord Benyon (Con), Daniel Zeichner MP (Lab) and Stuart Roberts (Lib Dem) – gave their views of the way forward. Again, there was a consensus, with the panel reassuring those in the room that whatever the outcome in the general election, the road towards Net Zero will accelerate not deviate.

Measure to manage

Daniel discussed the importance of establishing baselines for measuring progress and to ensure that the community is doing the right things in the best way. He stressed the importance of a Land Use Framework that would build consensus on how land use is optimised.

The panel also discussed the need for trade deals that did not allow UK farmers striving for high standards in animal welfare and environmental stewardship to be undercut by overseas competitors operating in a less regulated landscape.


A number of Agri-TechE members were exhibiting at Groundswell, including:

Rothamsted Research encouraged visitors to test the ‘Cow Burpometer’ to understand more about methane emissions.
On the Barenbrug display plots there was an opportunity to see grass, forage and herbal leys.
NIAB’s trial plots demonstrated a range of novel crops that could support diversification.
Hutchinsons soil pit demonstrated clearly how shallow the top soil is on this part of the farm. Soil and cost mapping provides support for decision-making.
Groundswell 2023

Groundswell 2023 well supported by members

Meet the Network
Agrasta Agrasta

The Groundswell Festival was set up by farmers with an interest in regenerative farming when it was considered very ‘alternative’.

Many of the ideas around diversification and soil health have now become more widely accepted and The Groundswell Festival has broadened its appeal. (See an update here)

There will be a good attendance by Agri-TechE members within the exhibition and NIAB and Barenbrug are festival partners.

Members exhibiting at Groundswell 2023 include:

Groundswell 2023 is taking place on 28 – 29 June 2023 at Lannock Manor Farm, Hertfordshire, UK.

Find out more about Groundswell at groundswellag.com.

Agri-TechE hosted an innovation insights session in 2022 – see some of the highlights in the video below:

Take a look at some photos from Groundswell Festival 2022

All images courtesy of Groundswell