A digital application known as the Soil Health Scorecard (SHSC) is a step closer to full roll-out, with trials taking place across the supply chain.

The solution is being delivered by ABACO Group and NIAB, with support from ASDA, Tesco and McCain Foods. The aim is to provide UK growers with a means of managing the health and productivity of their soil, centered around an online database.

A first for the industry

According to the partnership, the SHSC is a first for agriculture – establishing an open, accessible, and data-driven solution that supports data collection and benchmarking for soil health. For the individual grower, the application will provide a way to measure the success of specific management practices while offering tailored advice.

ASDA’s Chris Brown says the retailer is thrilled to be part of the SHSC. “This platform is the first of its kind and will enable key stakeholders to monitor and improve soil across the UK. We believe it’s a step in the right direction towards more sustainable farming practices,” he says.

Supply chain trial

The scorecard is currently being used by ASDA, Tesco and McCain within their own supply chains, supporting partners to fast-track the technology transition in agriculture and innovatively address key issues in food production.

Through AI analytics, the SHSC is expected to transform the way farmers approach soil health management, helping them to improve the targeted and efficient use of nutrients, increase yield resilience, reduce the need for fertilisers, and provide better support for biodiversity.

It’s hoped it’ll also provide a cutting-edge view and benchmarking of soil health within the agri-food supply chain.

“This is the culmination of many years of research,” says NIAB’s Elizabeth Stockdale. “We can’t overstate the importance of protecting the soil for generations to come, and the SHSC will help ensure we do just that.”

Regenerative approach

James Young of McCain says given the challenges British agriculture currently faces, the shift towards regenerative farming is vital to futureproof the industry. “At McCain, alongside our farmers, we’re committed to implementing regenerative agriculture practices across 100% of our potato acreage by 2030. We’re delighted to be trialling the ground-breaking SHSC app, which we believe will be an important tool to aid progression in this area and support the adoption of more sustainable practices.”

The SHSC originates from work delivered by AHDB, who published the benchmarking protocols last autumn, with a further iteration shared this spring. The benchmark data has since been used by ABACO Group and NIAB to inform the new digital solution.

AHDB will promote the scorecard later this year to coincide with the main soil assessment period in autumn.