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Agri-Tech Week 2017: Economist Prof Allan Buckwell will explain farming’s ‘triple helix’

PUBLISHED: 13:23 31 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:40 31 October 2017

A farmer ploughing his field at Bayfield.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A farmer ploughing his field at Bayfield. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

New agricultural technologies and scientific breakthroughs must play a key role in making East Anglia’s farm businesses fit for an uncertain future, said a leading farming economist.

Agri-Tech Week events will be held across East Anglia next week, including a debate on how agriculture’s “triple helix” of consumer, environment and technology will influence the rural economy in the future.

The annual lecture, hosted by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association and Easton and Otley College on November 9, will be given by agricultural economist Prof Allan Buckwell, a senior research fellow at the Institute for European Environmental Policy.

Mr Buckwell said farm production efficiencies will be key in future, underlined by a recent AHDB study which says the top 25pc of farm businesses would be best placed to cope, regardless of which trade and support scenarios emerge after Brexit.

“What we know from previous shocks, like livestock diseases or market collapse, is that there are always some people who withstand shocks better than everyone else,” he said. “But it is because they are more aware, they are more on the ball. It is not a magic bullet. It is attention to detail. They are monitoring their costs and monitoring their production and those people have higher returns than those who are not.

“So what can you do? You look at your varieties. You look at your rotation, and what fertilisers you are using. None of this is magic.

“Then there is the environmental challenge. A lot of farmers view this as a pain. They say the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are being unreasonable, and no-one understands them. Too many farmers haven’t taken on board the fact that it is not clever for their own business – particularly with P and K (phosphorus and potassium fertilisers). They are losing money to put fertilisers on the crop, without taking enough attention to see if this crop needs P and K. It leaches into the water and sooner or later, that comes back to the farmer as a cost. So farmers really should be paying a lot more attention to what actions they can take.

“This is where agri-tech comes in – using the best genomics and assisted agriculture to help farmers ensure that they are still going to be there in 20 or 30 years time.”

Other Agri-Tech Week events include a “Tyres, Traction and Compaction” workshop at Shotford Hall near Harleston on November 8, jointly run by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Essex and Suffolk Water and Catchment Sensitive Farming.

Speakers including independent mechanisation specialist Bill Basford will explore how to avoid waste through traction inefficiencies and how to reduce compaction effects to improve soils, including an in-depth look at wheels, loads, tyre pressures, tyre selection, variable pressure.

The following morning in Norwich, the Earlham Institute will host the launch of a new animation by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council highlighting the potential benefits that agricultural technology can offer as the UK leaves the European Union.

EVENTS SCHEDULE

Agri-Tech Week is a series of events, discussions and workshops across East Anglia aiming to showcase excellence in innovation and foster new collaborations between businesses, researchers and government.

• Monday November 6

Water and Soils: Riseholme Campus, Riseholme Hall, Lincoln.

• Tuesday November 7

REAP Conference: Today’s Knowledge Meets Tomorrow’s Technology.

Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre, Hinxton, Cambridge.

• Wednesday November 8

Morning: Tyres, Traction and Compaction Workshop, Shotford Hall, Harleston, Norfolk.

Afternoon: Essex Agri-Tech Expertise, Wivenhoe House, Colchester.

• Thursday November 9

Morning: Agricultural Biotechnology Council animation launch, Earlham Institute, Norwich Research Park.

Afternoon: Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association Annual Lecture, Easton and Otley College, Norwich.

• Friday November 10

Saving Waste in Horticulture: Optimising Resources, NIAB Park Farm, Histon, Cambridge

For more information see the Agri-Tech Week website .

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