Farmer Tom Pearson is transitioning his farm to regenerative agriculture. Here he talks about the benefits of participating at REAP.
I took advantage of the bursary last year and found REAP really interesting. You can’t go to REAP and say “I like that, I’ll go to the website and buy it” but it makes sense, from a business point of view, to understand what the world might look like in ten years’ time, so that you can purchase the right kit and hire the right people.
REAP gives insights into direction of travel
Last year we bought a combine – it was a major decision, a big amount of money, but I’m expecting to have that combine for 10 years plus, so these are long term decisions. Grain storage is another example – do I want a big 1,000 tonne grain store, or do I want lots of 100 tonne silos for specialist crops? You have to watch the market, the direction of travel – and technology is a big part of that.
I might need to buy a sprayer soon because ours is packing up, but because I know a bit about technology in the pipeline, I have realised that in five years’ time, I am likely to be using a sprayer far less; so I might be more inclined to look at a good value second hand sprayer rather than a new one.
I want to be ready for investment in natural capital
It’s the same with carbon. If someone comes along and says: “We’d like to do a big collaborative natural capital project; where is your base-line data? How can we prove its money well spent?” I want to be ready by understanding the technology associated with that: how to measure carbon, understanding the depths for sampling, using GPS positioning to get the same geopositional reading. It is important to be keeping an eye on the future, and technology is obviously going to be a big part of that.
It is incredibly helpful, if you’ve got the time, to attend a conference like REAP and get a feel for what’s going on, some things might work for you now and others give an idea of where things are going.
Opportunity to provide input to get the tech right
The nice thing about being part of Agri-TechE is that you can see these tech guys are putting in a lot of effort, however it’s impossible to create these products without some input from farmers.
I’m from a science background myself and I understand how difficult it is to evidence a product and get it to market, so I’m happy to help out. I don’t want to be faced with a bunch of poorly designed products down the line when I know I’ve had the opportunity to provide that input.
Farmers have a lot on their plates and a lot to do, so it’s easy to think: “I haven’t got time for this, it’s too far down the line”. But I’ve still got the energy and enthusiasm for this so I’m keen to learn what technologies are out there.
Balancing agri-tech with regenerative agriculture
Tom Pearson is one of the farming leaders of the H3 project (Healthy soils, Healthy plants, Healthy people), which is comparing regenerative agriculture to traditional farming and looking at biodiversity, soil quality and food quality. He says: “Measuring each of these elements is becoming possible. There has been a lack of clarity over the future, but the wait is coming to an end. Interest in carbon sequestration, for example, is gaining momentum. We want to establish baseline data now, to be ahead of the curve when someone comes along asking to do a big collaborative natural capital project.”
He is also part of the farmer advisory group for the Small Robot Company, which launched in the REAP Start-up Showcase and has since gained funding and widespread industry support. The company is one of many that have benefited from the Agri-techE ecosystem and will take part in the exhibition in this years’ virtual REAP conference.
“In a nutshell: REAP is fantastic. It’s a lovely, friendly conference, with really enthusiastic people. It’s ag tech, it’s still on the fringes of what farmers do in our day-to-day lives, but it is another interesting aspect of my daily activities. I enjoy it from all those points of view.”
REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture – 10th November 2021
Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups.