“We have a new generation of conscientious consumers who care about provenance, health and farming practices. Farming will become more sustainable because, I believe, it’s the only way to have a resilient business in the future. Things simply cannot stay as they are” comments Rosie Begg, Head of Farm Strategy at Gorgates Products fruit and one of the speakers at REAP 2019. “I hope that exemplary farmers will be kind enough to share their expertise and wisdom to facilitate progress. Collaboration, in my opinion, will lead the way.”
Innovating for One Agriculture
An emphasis on the farming community’s responsibilities as custodians of the countryside and environment, along with the Basic Payment Scheme phase-out and the reduction in the armoury of sprays, will drive the wider adoption of new technology and bio-innovations to increase efficiency and manage costs.
“Farming is certainly part of the solution to protecting the environment but if we are going to see environmental changes at the speed and scale that is needed we must be more open and educate the public on our practices to encourage joined-up thinking where everyone is part of the solution.
Working with nature
“On our farm we are trialling combination crops within our blackcurrant plantations: yarrow to help reduce snails, and phacelia planted every eighth row in one of our fields to encourage not only pollinators but also hoverflies to eat the aphids and reduce the need for pesticides. We recently counted 75 bees over five different stretches and some were absolutely huge so it is definitely working.
“Another change we have made is to introduce precision farming to optimise fertiliser usage, save costs and reduce the environmental impact.
“Our farm will need a lot of investment over the coming years and this can only be prioritised by improved analysis of the data to determine what we can afford to do at this point in time, and what inefficiencies are threatening our farming business.”
Looking for trends
“I believe that data driven decision-making will be key to our farm’s success and we have already benefited from that approach. We analysed our blackcurrant data from the past ten years to look for evidence of any patterns in yield and costs. The findings showed a significant drop-off in yield after year ten at one of our farms. We also noticed that despite the virgin blackcurrant land being too far away to irrigate, the benefits from this soil outweighed the lack of irrigation. This data allowed us to plan our rotations for the next ten years and will be analysed regularly.
“Sometimes the changes required to our farm seem overwhelming, but data will allow us to plan informed step changes over a timescale we can afford. Panic fixing things at a higher cost when they go wrong is not a sensible course of action.”
Rosie Begg has a degree in Business Management and after working in London for six years gaining experience in Finance, PR and Marketing decided to return to run her family’s farm in Norfolk. She is Head of Farm Strategy at Gorgate Products Fruit Farms, working alongside the Head of Farm Operations in managing their blackcurrants, arable crops and Victoria plums.
Rosie will be part of the REAP 2019 Sofa Session “Next Generation Innovation” on 6 November – see more about REAP here.