Academics have joined forces with farmers in a bid to co-design a new digital data platform to inform on-farm decision-making around improving farm productivity and carbon efficiency.
Innovative Farmers is collaborating with Environment Systems and the University of Edinburgh as part of a major 2-year industrial research project under the government’s post-Brexit Farming Innovation Programme (FIP). FIP is part of the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’s investment in innovation, research and development to transform productivity, enhance environmental sustainability and meet net-zero goals.
The project, ‘Pasture Optimisation for Resilience and Livelihoods (PASTORAL)’, is funded by Innovate UK and will combine satellite data with advanced algorithms to deliver weekly intelligence on grass biomass and carbon budgets through the co-designed platform.
Farmers from a diverse range of dairy, beef and sheep enterprises are being asked to join the project to share current and future pasture performance needs as well as to understand the way in which satellite data can help support this.
At present, farmers walk their fields with a rising plate meter to assess grass biomass available for livestock grazin,g but Innovative Farmers says this does not accurately reflect field quality nor likely future growth under climate change, limiting accuracy of pasture management decisions.
Innovative Farmers has already held a virtual workshop in December but is urging farmers to sign up to find out more, take part in a short survey to share some information about farm and pasture management and join a co-design workshop on 28 February.
The PASTORAL service will be co-designed with livestock farmers being split equally between dairy, beef and lamb producers, with service testing, development and demonstration across organic, regenerative agriculture and conventional farming systems
Farmers face the growing threat of climate change, which reduces grassland productivity, and they need to demonstrate carbon reduction to satisfy the government’s net-zero policy and the supply chain’s environmental credentials. Gaps in existing farm diagnostics make it difficult for farmers to accurately manage pasture or measure carbon stocks and sequestration.
PASTORAL is designed to revolutionise pasture management by providing farmers with near real-time information on pasture productivity, including grass biomass, its consumption and growth rate, plus tools to optimise herd distribution and the ability to measure soil carbon resources.
The University of Edinburgh will provide pasture modelling to help in the creation of field biomass and carbon analytics suitable for delivery to farmers. And the Soil Association will facilitate farmer engagement for co-creation activities including workshops and feedback sessions.
Confirmed members include representatives from agricultural feed company Mole Valley Farmers, supermarket Waitrose and Partners, Dalehead, Dovecote Park and WD Farmers.
For more information on how to join the scheme: Innovativefarmers.org