21 June 2002

GRABALARGERSLICE OFPROFIT

Food is firmly on the

menu at this years

Royal Show, with the

emphasis on the ideas

and techniques that can

help to improve production

efficiency and boost

profit margins

THE food theme offers something for everyone, with information for consumers and both livestock and arable producers. Quality plays a prominent part in the food-related exhibits and demonstrations, reflecting the importance of meeting the increasingly demanding standards of customers in the premium end of the market.

For livestock farmers there are reminders of the need to adopt welfare friendly production methods, and arable producers are offered information on the opportunities offered by some of the less familiar crops as well as the latest information on organic food and farming. The food-related exhibits at this years show also include a major field-to-fork feature dealing with every stage in the supply chain for potatoes.

Organic food and farming

DEMAND for organic food is here to stay, but there is less certainty about how rapidly the UK market will expand and how much of the demand will be met by overseas producers. Although plenty of growers are making a success with organic production, there are also some pessimists who point to the fact that demand is expanding more slowly than some of the original forecasts suggested, and there is evidence that weed and disease problems have persuaded some growers to switch back from organic farming to using chemicals.

Making a success with organically grown crops requires specialist information on every stage from seed-bed preparation to marketing the produce, and a visit to the Royal Show Organic Food and Farming exhibit offers the ideal opportunity to talk to some of the countrys leading experts.

Key partners in the exhibit include DEFRA, the Soil Association and Elm Farm Research Centre, and between them they will offer the most up-to-date information and advice for established producers and for anyone thinking of making a first-time switch from relying on chemicals to full scale organic production.

Important factors for those who are converting to organic production include availability of grant aid, certification and market development, and this is the type of information that will be available from the Soil Association who will field a team of specialists at the show.

Elm Farm is the UKs leading organic research and advisory organisation, and they will be concentrating on technical information. The results of the latest research programmes and information on new policy initiatives will be available from their specialists, and they will also be able to provide technical publications for use as background reading.

Additional technical information for organic growers will be available from representatives of the Henry Doubleday Research Association and from Newcastle Universitys Tesco Centre for Organic Agriculture, presenting the latest scientific findings on production systems, products and marketing. There is even specialised advice on business planning and finance, provided by the Triodos bank which offers a service tailored to the needs of organic growers.

British potatoes – growing quality

THIS is a new initiative at the show, tracing potato production and marketing through every stage from the seed to a range of finished products ready for the supermarket shelf (grid ref Q14). It could be the first in a series of in-depth exhibits which will cover other major food products at future Royal Shows.

Quality will feature strongly in this special exhibit, which provides growers with the facts about the Assured Produce Scheme and the Integrated Crop Management programme, designed to maintain consumer confidence in the safety of the produce they buy.

The list of companies directly involved in the potato exhibit includes Agrovista, BASF and Syngenta from the crop protection chemicals sector. There will also be some of the leading fully integrated potato suppliers including AP Greenvale, MBM and Solanum who will be illustrating different aspects of treatment, processing and packaging for the retail market.

There will also be a display of finished products provided by McCain and the British Potato Council, and this section will include recipes plus opportunities to taste samples of the potato products.

Specialists will be available to provide growers with specialised technical and financial information about each production stage in the exhibit, but there will also be facts and figures about the basics of potato production for the general consumer.

Quality livestock production

LIKE all the food related exhibits, Quality Livestock Production (grid ref T20) was planned to interest both producers and the general public. The main themes concentrate on producing meat and dairy products with the highest standards of quality and safety from animals in welfare-friendly production systems that are environmentally sustainable.

Quality includes taste, texture, appearance and shelf life, and exhibit is based on the latest information from some of the current LINK projects. All the main livestock types are included, and members of the research teams will be on hand to discuss the results and to explain how production systems can be adapted to improve quality standards.

Sheep

TECHNICAL advice and information for sheep farmers will be available at this years show in the NSAs Sheep Technology Centre (grid ref S23). There will be three main sections in the centre covering science and health, marketing and sheep breeds.

The science and health section will be manned by National Scrapie Plan specialists from DEFRA who will explain how the scheme is progressing, and they will also explain the importance of genotyping for scrapie and why breeders should take part in the scheme.

The Centre also houses the Sheep and Goat Health Scheme, offering information on subjects as varied as maedi-visna and biosecurity.

Many of the leading breed societies will be represented at the Centre to provide information and deal with queries, and the marketing feature will concentrate on the production and selection of lambs to suit the requirements of different sectors of the market.

Science and food production

SCIENCE into Practice (grid ref Q15) is the name of a major exhibit detailing some of the latest scientific information relating to farming and food production. The exhibit is backed by two of the leading research organisations, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Scottish Agricultural Colleges, and the information they are providing is of interest to farmers and the general public.

One of the original objectives of the founders of the RASE was to establish an organisation that would provide information about the latest scientific developments that could affect the farming industry. This is why the Societys motto is Practice with Science, which prompted the choice of Science into Practice as the name for this new Royal Show feature.

The main theme of this years BBSRC exhibit is science and animal welfare, an interactive feature based on the latest information about how animals perceive their surroundings and how research work can be used to improve their living conditions. It includes new insights into the way groups of pigs and sheep interact with each other, and there is also information on the latest research into methods of reducing stress in hens. Making use of this type of research data can help to reduce problems such as fighting among pigs and feather pecking in flocks of poultry, subjects that can have a direct impact on profit margins.

Also included in the BBSRC display is a special section covering the evolution and development of modern food crops, the activity of genes in bacteria that cause food poisoning plus a technical study of the genetics of different grasses.

Topics as varied as measuring the bloom on a potato and removing moisture from fresh produce before packing are covered in the SAC exhibit.

The produce dehumidifier developed by the SAC is called the Wee Dram machine, and it has already won a smart award for innovation. It is used to reduce the moisture level in freshly harvested produce before it is packed for display on the supermarket shelves.

The SAC will also be showing the latest findings from its ongoing research work into nutrients, both in the soil and for animal nutrition. There is also a Working Crop Clinic featuring the SACs research into controlling crop diseases, and including displays of healthy and diseased crop material together with reports on the crop protection routines.