Taking seats to
listen & learn

The 2024 conference season is well underway. These days, no-one has time for ‘non-ferences’ – when little meaningful is gained. But there’s a crop of useful events this month to choose from locally, regionally and nationally. AF chose to attend two events so far in February and here are our key takeaways.

Taking a leaf out of their book

The LEAF conference happened last Thursday in London. AF CEO David Horton-Fawkes took his seat alongside 200 farmers, land managers, academics, and advisors. It was a conference where “people came to listen and learn, not attack or defend and the second LEAF event I’ve attended which was a sell-out, in contrast to similar events”.

  • Look outside the UK for examples of best practice. Other nations are already facing the challenges coming our way. Look at Australia.
  • The future isn’t plant based, it’s less meat from more sustainable sources. Meat consumption isn’t falling. Evidence shows consumers say one thing but do another! Waste is a bigger issue than yield.
  • Better measurement and better standards mean better margins for farmers. Lobby to create consistent carbon standards and global measurement criteria.
  • Loss of BPS is impacting but marginal gains in productivity won’t make up the difference.
  • Don’t sell your carbon. Its value has trebled. Borrow against it.

 

Listening closely to the thought-provoking presentations and discussions prompted David Horton-Fawkes to consider how AF can best serve you and other Members. “How should AF to respond to farming with less inputs? There’s a real shortage of trusted, climate-conscious professionals. Should we provide them?

Despite the rhetoric, retailers have no genuine interest in promoting sustainability unless there’s a profit in it. 85% consumers buy on price. Should AF engage with retailers to become their trusted procurement partners in farming?”

The whole event, conveniently marked up into sections by topic, can be watched online

 

Normal for Norfolk

Yesterday saw the Norfolk Farming Conference take place at Royal Norfolk Showground on the outskirts of Norwich.

AF Head of Marketing Alex Robinson, together with a team of colleagues, shared the hall with nearly 400 other delegates. “It’s the first Norfolk Farming Conference and it certainly tackled a big theme – can we improve the environment and our diets simultaneously, in an affordable way for the consumer, whilst being profitable for the farmer?”

  • Finding the balance between SFI & food production is important.
  • When will we stop valuing food by weight but by nutrient density and environmental impact
  • We need more cropping options but they must be scalable and profitable – incentives should be to do this quicker whilst minimising risk e.g. major changes to hemp growing on the horizon.
  • If you want people to pay more for food, you have to tell them why. Should there be a GCSE in food production or horticulture?
  • Data is vital. Catalyst Farming’s data from 6500 ha (500 fields) shows winter wheat drilling date impacts yield by 1.2t/ha per month after the month of September – this equates to 40 kg per day
  • Trust in food labelling? Consumers need to be helped to make the right decisions
  • Nutritional properties in food can be enhanced through precision breeding. A study of 120 children at Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital showed 86% were deficient or insufficient for at least one micronutrient.
  • If we ate differently and wasted less food, we could feed the world (without increasing cropped land area).

 

Your AF team was pleased to see so many Members at the conference, and relished the valuable opportunity for face to face conversations. Karen Mobbs also noted “the increased number of future decision-makers compared to previous years”.

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