Agrii has launched an initiative aimed at improving the sustainability of arable businesses, which includes establishing a net-zero carbon demonstration farm.
The company’s Green Horizons scheme is designed to help farmers meet the many challenges they will likely face in the coming years, ensuring agriculture remains sustainable and profitable.
At the launch, Agrii managing director Ronan Hughes highlighted some of the challenges, including the move from direct payments to payments based on environmental measures, more extreme seasons and the 2050 net-zero target.
However, Agrii’s head of technology and services, Clare Bend, added: “There is a massive knowledge gap to deliver on these challenges.”
And she believes Agrii has a vital role to help fill this knowledge gap.
At the heart of the initiative is an ambitious five-point action plan for sustainable food production. Here are a few examples:
1. Increase farm production and viability
Agrii is increasing its work threefold on developing novel crops such as chickpeas. Regenerative farming techniques will also be explored in Agrii’s research programme, with a focus on farm profits.
To help drive creativity, the company is planning to launch the AgriiCulture Innovation Award this month.
Mrs Bend also highlighted that the company is looking to take a lead on the adoption of new techniques with real potential, such as gene editing.
2. Provide integrated whole-farm solutions
A good example of the work being done is the development of variety selection tools, which is changing variety choice. Agrii has established a new measure of resilience – varietal sustainable ratings.
This is based on a number of measures, such as competitiveness against grassweeds, data from commercial conditions, along with AHDB Recommended List data.
Mrs Bend said there had been good uptake, with an increase from 43% to 60% varieties in the “best” category being drilled by their customers. This compares with 39% for the rest of the market.
There is also a greater emphasis of integrated pest management in trials and fast-tracking research on biosolutions.
3. Improve soil resilience
Agrii is working with organisation such as Harper Adams University to improve the understanding of soils. It will be launching a new measure of soil health later this year.
Another aim is to expand its range of low-carbon fertiliser to help farmers reduce their carbon footprint. There is also a focus on tailored crop nutrition.
4. Enhance the environment
This year will see Agrii establish a net-zero iFarm in Cambridgeshire. Midloe Grange Farm has 97ha of cropping, including wheat, winter and spring barley, oilseed rape and winter beans.
Farmer David Felce said the aim is to achieve net-zero and he is using the Farm Carbon Toolkit calculator to establish the current baseline level and identify areas of focus.
Another part of the plan is to develop an accredited environmental qualification for customers and agronomists, and expand on Agrii’s virtual training on best practice such as its sprayer operation modules.
5. Stakeholder engagement
The fifth point is to engage with stakeholders. Agrii is inviting farmers across the UK to join a Green Horizons farmer network with the aim of sharing ideas.
The company is looking to engage with government, supermarkets and NGOs to help address the lack of understanding of where food comes from and the challenges farmers face.