Cereals LIVE – the online version of the arable event – has been a heralded as a resounding success, attracting over 10,000 visitors from all over the world. Charlotte Cunningham reports.

Having postponed the physical event due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the organisers decided to deliver as much content as possible online to support the industry during lockdown.

The result was a two-day online event on 10-11 June featuring a comprehensive seminar programme packed with top speakers, video demonstrations of machinery and new kit, crop plot tours and interactive chat with exhibitors.

“We’ve been overwhelmed at the reaction from the farming industry,” said event director Alli McEntyre. “Everyone has been really keen to get involved – and the response to the live webinars far exceeded our expectation. We had more than 9000 live viewers, with the top session drawing over 800 attendees and every session producing some excellent questions from the audience.”

NFU president Minette Batters and Defra minister Victoria Prentis went head-to-head on the topic of food security and imports, with the NFU’s recent petition on maintaining high food standards having received nearly 900,000 signatories in just two weeks. “We’ve seen 72,000 emails going from members of the public to MPs – it just shows how strongly people feel; we’ve got to get this right,” said Minette.

Victoria insisted that the Government was committed to high standards in agriculture and food safety. “In all of our trade negotiations we will not compromise on high environmental protection, animal welfare protection or food standards,” she said.

Other seminar topics included adapting to and mitigating climate change, precision farming technology, routes into farming, and the arable market outlook. In total there were 18 live webinars which averaged an audience of 487 each, plus two webinars available on demand.

Global reach

“It was nice to see a really global reach, with 15% of the attendees joining from outside of the UK – from a total of 78 different countries,” said Alli.

Visitors were also able to view plenty of machinery in action in the Syngenta Sprays & Sprayers Arena – where the Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year presentation took place. Scooping the top spot was Matt Fuller, who works at Heathcote Farms, Toddington, Bedfordshire. Making the presentation was NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw: “There’s going to be ever more scrutiny on the way we use plant protection products,” he said. “It’s absolutely critical that we can demonstrate professionalism right throughout the industry.”

The event offered a valuable opportunity for visitors to collect BASIS and NRoSO points, as well as a plethora of technical advice from exhibitors and through the NIAB virtual event hub. There were even virtual crop walks and video from crop plots at the original Cambridgeshire site.

Closing the day

Closing the event on each day was a virtual beer tent, where visitors could relax with friends, request live music from the resident DJ and pledge money to the charity partner RABI.

“Nothing can quite replace seeing friends, machinery and crops in person, but going online has enabled us to deliver a wide range of content and to reach a totally new audience,” said Alli. “I’d like to thank all of our exhibitors, sponsors, speakers and visitors for contributing to such a successful event, and look forward to meeting you face-to-face next year.”

Key figures

  • 10,812 attendees over the two days
  • 67,166 page views
  • 78 countries
  • 9260 webinar viewers
  • 813 top webinar attendance
  • 568 questions asked in webinars
  • 114,100 impressions on Twitter over two days (@CerealsEvent)