25 July 2016

There are plenty of new developments in the sector and we welcome the opportunity to publish items of interest. Here, Dr Tom MacMillan (TMacMillan@soilassociation.org) of the Soil Association, tells us about the Innovative Famers initiative:

“Farmers are natural innovators, constantly reacting to what the environment and the markets throw at them. They have an idea, try something out and adapt the way they farm. But as most agricultural research funding goes off farm, when farmers trial and test they are often going it alone.

Innovative Farmers brings together groups of farmers who are trying new things. Through an online portal they find people with similar interests and design a practical ‘field-lab’ to test their idea. We match the group with a coordinator to facilitate the field-lab and a leading agricultural researcher to make sure they get the best of the time they invest. At the moment there are groups working on finding sustainable ways to control creeping thistle, test blight-resistant varieties of potato and reduce the use of antibiotics on dairy farms.

Businesses who recognise the benefits of working with forward-thinking farmers are getting involved too. Some are promoting the network to their customers; others are setting up their own field labs. They are using the network to show they are supporting practical innovation in farming, or to test sustainable ideas which meet their business goals.

By bringing together farmers, researchers and agricultural businesses, Innovative Farmers is finding solutions to practical problems. In its first phase, more than 750 farmers were involved, in field-labs on 35 topics. 90 per cent of them said they learned from the experience and over half made changes to the way they farm. Farmer, John Pawsey summed it up by saying it turned him ‘from an advice taker, to an advice maker’.”

The Soil Association is one of the organisations backing Innovative Farmers. You can find out more at Innovative Farmers or email info@innovativefarmers.org.com.

Key contact

Kevin Kennedy

Kevin Kennedy Partner

  • Estates and Land
  • Private Wealth
  • Agricultural Disputes

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