Farmers key to South West’s freshest agri-tech event

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Working together to build resilient, profitable farming businesses

British farmers are critical to the UK food supply chain and protecting the nation’s valuable and vulnerable environments. And technology can play a key part in that, making it the focus of the South West’s freshest agri-tech event.

Farmers, landowners, agri-businesses and industry stakeholders will be in for a comprehensive day of innovation, discussion, and partnership at the South West AgriTech Showcase on 20 April 2023, held at Exeter Racecourse in Devon.

Recent events have shown just how vulnerable the nation’s food supply chain is, says Russell Frith, inward investment lead at flagship event sponsor, Wiltshire Council. “Climate change is only going to continue to put pressure on agriculture and food security. Farmers are being asked to be more efficient, produce more for less, and reduce food production’s impact on the environment, including improvements to farmland and wider biodiversity.

“Agri-tech and innovation are vital components in helping farmers meet these objectives, as well as in building resilient and profitable businesses,” he adds. “We’re confident that this conference will give attendees the information, tools, and networks they need to progress to net zero, build sustainable businesses, and enhance food security.”

With collaboration recognised as a means to progression, Kevin Brooks will be sharing how a One Health Business Cluster offers great opportunities for farm businesses and developing agrifood sector SMEs.

“The aim of a One Health Business Cluster is to unlock and accelerate innovative development,” says Mr Brooks, director at bid writing company Brooks Kebbey – a main sponsor of the showcase – and facilitator for the Dorset LEP One Health Programme. “So in the session we’ll talk through the development of a cluster to support innovation from businesses with an emphasis on farming, food security, and environmental sciences,” he explains.

Mr Brooks will also be on hand to offer his expertise in bid writing for farm grants and SME funding solutions.

Fellow event sponsor, Andrew Farmer, founder at MyOxygen, will be holding a session on how software can improve the way we farm and live. “Data-powered digital technology will help farmers and food producers drive efficiency, grow profits and minimise risk,” he says.

But sometimes that is not communicated in a meaningful way, and his session will help unravel the use of digital technology in producing data for meaningful impact.

Taking it back to the farm, Katy Jo Stanton, senior farming adviser at the Soil Association, will be showcasing farmer innovation in action; tackling soil restoration and preservation. “We’ll be sharing some of our own farmer-led research and innovation projects which are fundamental in developing farm level solutions. And, of course, we’re really keen to speak with farmers and growers from the region.”

Ms Stanton says having open conversations is key in developing solutions that benefit both the farm business and the farmed environment.

Hutchinsons’ head of soils, Ian Robertson, will be shedding light on why it is important to stay invested in the soils; better understanding leads to improved management and nutrient use efficiency.

“One of the key themes for my session is opening a conversation with farmers to bring awareness to how soil functions, and what impact different cultivation techniques, and the inputs used, have on soils,” he says. “Having these discussions can help find better ways of producing cereal or grass crops without compromising the business or environment.”

Bringing together farmers, landowners, agri-businesses and industry stakeholders will create a powerful room, says Joanna Rufus, chair at South West AgriTech.

“We especially need farmers to communicate what is happening at the coalface. Agri-tech is a critical component in helping farmers achieve the priorities like net zero as well as developing a more robust food supply chain. But if farmers aren’t in the room, innovation risks losing traction.”