How to embrace the many disruptions farms may face was the theme of a recent conference delivered by the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM).
The outcome was, that adoption of appropriate technologies in tandem with the rediscovery of traditional approaches, delivered with astute management, will provide the foundation to move forward.
National Farm Management Conference
More than 430 delegates attended the National Farm Management Conference where Professor Sir Charles Godfray from Oxford University emphasised climate change will impact the ability to produce food. But he says at the same time, farms will come under increasing governmental and supply chain pressure to reduce emissions.
“Farms will have to take every opportunity to improve efficiency to reduce emissions, but also consider the opportunities presented by carbon sequestration,” he says.
“Furthermore, by cutting methane, farms can have a direct effect on cooling the atmosphere, which could be argued is a public good and something that they should be paid for.”
Also addressed was the national decline in biodiversity. Sam Hall from the Conservative Environment Network says there are farming methods that help to reverse this decline without necessarily compromising output, including use of cover crops, reduced tillage and precision input applications.
He explains the shift in subsidy schemes away from production to environmental protection will help to encourage the restoration of biodiversity.
As part of the answer to meeting the criteria for these subsidy schemes, the audience was told regenerative farming already embraces many key principles to help reduce carbon footprints and improve biodiversity.
“It all starts with the soil, improving its quality and nutritive value, while keeping it where it’s required – in fields not rivers,” explains Paul Cherry from Groundswell Agriculture.
“By capturing carbon and increasing biological activity we can cut costs and build resilient businesses,” he says.
However, there was debate about clarifying the definition and description of regenerative farming and how to work more closely with the supply chain.
Aiden Connelly from AgriTech Capital reminded the audience that globally, the planet has to produce 70% more food in the next 30 years.
“This is equivalent to increasing productivity by 1.8% per annum, which is less than already achieved. Carefully selected technology will allow us to deliver improvements, but will require very skilful management,” he says.
Summarising the conference, IAgrM Chair, Carl Atkin-House, proposed regenerative farming and technology can work hand-in-hand both at farm level and in the supply chain, as those who supply and buy from farmers are all under the same environmental pressures.