Changing the way food is produced
“To get our tool to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) we need £1M of investment in grant and equity. We’ve had a fantastic network of support so far, including from the Impact Lab and its partners.”
Jason Hayward-JonesDirector, RegenFARM
RegenFARM, Rothamsted Research and the University of Exeter are working together on a project that applies a regenerative agriculture approach to farming, enabling farmers to optimise their practice, both environmentally and economically. This proven approach will ultimately change the way that food is produced globally.
Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity,enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services.
Jason Hayward-Jones Director of RegenFARM is an agribusiness and agri-tech consultant and is developing a platform through which farmers can adopt a new approach to farming.
As part of the platform, The University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research have joined forces with RegenFARM to create a digital decision-support tool, enabling farmers to access data, advice and support, and a range of other useful resources.
Ralph Ledbetter from the University of Exeter has been providing data and technical expertise for the tool. Ralph explained: “The tool can interpret a vast amount of data from farmers’ land, for example; contours, channels, land cover and rivers. This information can be valuable for the farmers in ascertaining the best use for their land, according to its characteristics. The tool can take regenerative agriculture farming techniques and show where they are best applied. We currently have two case study farms, an arable farm in Okehampton and a dairy farm in Wiltshire. It would easily take 1-2 years as a business to establish what the demonstrator has accomplished through our collaboration in just a few months. We are showcasing the principles of what we are trying to create and making it tangible to our users.”
RegenFARM Director, Jason Hayward-Jones, whose education at Seale Hayne Agricultural College and extensive consulting experience working with development organisations, and commercial farming operations, alongside his previous work in Australia has helped to shape the RegenFARM concept said: “Australia’s uptake of regenerative agriculture has been quick, out of necessity to critical and immediate climate change factors. The UK is also now starting to experience the effects of climate change as we saw last summer during the very dry conditions and the UK farming industry has some catching-up to do. The approach is simple but fundamental; RegenFARM allows food producers to make the best use of their natural assets, and make their business more resilient for the future. RegenFARM allows users to create a digital version of their farm and see how different risk scenarios affect the farm and business. The farm design tool is unique, and allows the integration of other agritech innovations on the market on to its platform, offering the next generation of farmers an alternative, regenerative way to produce food.
Professor Adrian Collins of Rothamsted Research explained their part in the project: “The principal role of Rothamsted Research has been to bring expert knowledge of the agricultural sector and available interventions for improving sustainability, along with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills for constructing some of the functionality underpinning the demonstrator tool.”
Remarking on the unique collaboration Adrian continued: “The Impact Lab brought together local scientific and business partners to ensure that scientific knowledge is converted into a user-friendly demonstrator tool for informing the consideration and uptake of regenerative agricultural interventions at a critical juncture for agri-policy in the UK and beyond.”
There is significant demand to further develop the demonstrator tool and expand its reach. The implications of which could have substantial impact on the agricultural and agri-tech sector.
As Adrian explained: “With BREXIT, the UK has an opportunity to re-focus agri-policy and to ensure that modern farming delivers both private good to farmers but also valuable public goods to wider society. Underpinning both is the need for fundamental regenerative farming practices to ensure that critical resources including soil and water are placed at the heart of farm management to assist their protection and preservation for current and future generations. The demonstrator tool illustrates example regenerative agricultural practices to instigate dialogue between farmers and their advisors, with a view to improving farm incomes and public service delivery. Critically, the demonstrator tool examines the scope for regenerative farming at both farm and landscape scales in example locations since both are inextricably linked in the quest for improved public and private goods from farmed land."
Jason Hayward-Jones concluded: “To get our tool to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) we need £1M of investment in grant and equity. We’ve had a fantastic network of support so far from the Impact Lab and its partners, alongside SETsquared Exeter, Stevens Scown and Innovate2Succeed. Initial response has been really encouraging. We recognise that the next generation of farmers are tech savvy and want support to be relevant to them, so their legacy can continue. In time, we can begin to roll out the decision support tool globally and support family and commercial farmers across the world who we will rely on to feed us in the future.”
Jason summarised: “What we offer is really important to farmers ‘at the coalface’ of climate change. They can choose to contribute to climate change, or to solve it and adopt more regenerative ways. There are three simple things RegeFARM can help farmers do: Grow Healthy Food, Regenerate Your Soil, and Make More Money.
- Jason Hayward-Jones, Director
- Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director
- Dr Khalid Mahmood, Innovation Manager, Rothamsted Research
- Dr Ralph Ledbetter, Industrial Research Fellow, University of Exeter
- Professor Adrian Collins, Rothamsted Research
- Dr Yusheng Zhang, Rothamsted Research