Farmers are embracing technology and diversification to Brexit-proof their businesses, says survey

PUBLISHED: 16:23 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:23 28 November 2018

Farmers are embracing technology such as data-gathering drones to Brexit-proof their businesses, says a survey by Savills. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Farmers are embracing technology such as data-gathering drones to Brexit-proof their businesses, says a survey by Savills. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Farmers and landowners in East Anglia are embracing new technology and diversification in a bid to future-proof their business ahead of Brexit, according to a survey of rural professionals.

The snapshot survey was carried out at a series of autumn seminars held across Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex by property agency Savills, which were attended by rural business advisers including representatives from leading regional banks, solicitors and accountants.

Of those surveyed, 69% said their clients were taking steps to develop new markets to support the future of their business. Meanwhile, 71% said clients were exploring the use of agri-tech in future farming plans.

Will Hargreaves, from Savills food and farming team in Ipswich, said: “Encouragingly, the current political landscape and the resulting legislative changes are being seen by some as an opportunity rather than a threat.

“Of course there’s uncertainty – no one knows for sure what will happen over the coming months. But it appears from what we’ve been told that many farmers in the East of England are attempting to mitigate that uncertainty by being proactive, listening to new ideas and embracing innovation.

“The pace of change in our sector is a lot faster now, farmers and landowners will need to adapt or risk being left behind.”

Henry Barringer, from Savills food and farming team in Norwich, added: “It will be the farm business that evolves into a consumer-focused, environmentally-friendly brand, differentiating itself in the marketplace, that is set to thrive - dynamism and diversification will be at the very heart of any fruitful enterprise.

“The successful farm will have adopted the most efficient and productive technologies and farming systems, taking full advantage of the Government’s expressed willingness to support funding for technology. Data will be harvested and analysed to inform decision making. Perhaps sensors will be deployed in every field? Freeing up time spent driving around to check whether conditions are too wet, dry or windy to carry out tasks such as spraying.

“Collaboration will also be a key component of success, with farms working together for mutual benefit, be it over machinery, ideas, input purchasing, marketing or, importantly, labour. Doing something because that’s how it has always been will no longer be the answer.”

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