Suffolk innovator becomes AHDB’s first Strategic Arable Farmer as new scheme launched

Brian Barker has been chosen as the first strategic arable farmer as part of the AHDB scheme. pictur

Brian Barker has been chosen as the first strategic arable farmer as part of the AHDB scheme. picture Gary Donnison

A forward-thinking Suffolk arable farmer has been chosen for a prestigious national role showing how research can bring practical benefits to UK agriculture.

Brian Barker addresses his audience at Lodge Farm Westhorpe. Picture Gary Donnison

Brian Barker addresses his audience at Lodge Farm Westhorpe. Picture Gary Donnison

Brian Barker, of Westhorpe, near Stowmarket, admitted he was 'surprised and happy and daunted' after he was selected as the UK's very first strategic arable farmer by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) following a rigorous selection process.

The AHDB wants to fast-track advances in agriculture and sees Strategic Farms as the best way to consolidate the progress it has already made through its Monitor Farm programme, through which selected farmers hold regular farmer meetings and trial practical improvements which can be replicated across other farms in the area. The emphasis is on efficiencies and cost-savings through measures that can be rolled out across other farms.

Brian, whose new role was announced yesterday as he came to the end of his three year term as Stowmarket Monitor Farmer, is excited about the possibilities of the latest AHDB Farm Excellence Platform scheme, and how it may improve his farming methods.

'After one sleep the head was then churning away with all the ideas of what we could do,' he said. 'We are going to set the agriculture of Suffolk and East Anglia on a very interesting journey.'

Brian-Barker-with-Tim-Isaac-AH


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Two further commercial farms will be added in 2018 and 2019, respectively, to the scheme.

Each Strategic Farm will run for six years to allow independent research to be conducted across a full rotation. Approaches showcased at the farms will be subject to full cost-benefit analyses to help farmers assess the potential for adopting them on their farms. The aim is to harness the proven benefits of 'farmer-to-farmer' learning to accelerate the uptake of knowledge and innovation to make the industry more globally competitive.

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AHDB head of knowledge exchange (Cereals & Oilseeds) Tim Isaac said: 'We're setting up these farms to make the connection between research and farming stronger. Monitor Farms play an important part but tend to look at issues on that specific farm. Strategic Farms, however, focus on the broader strategic needs of the industry and use trials-based approaches and sound economic data to fulfil those needs.'

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