AHDB has revealed plans to roll out a series of Strategic Farms for arable farmers as part of its Farm Excellence Platform.
Former Stowmarket monitor farmer Brian Barker has been selected as the first strategic arable farmer, with two further commercial farms being added in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Each Strategic Farm will run for six years to allow independent research to be conducted across a full rotation. Approaches showcased at the farms will be subject to full cost-benefit analyses to help farmers assess the potential for adoption on their own farms.
Strategic Farms, therefore, harness the proven benefits of ‘farmer-to-farmer’ learning to accelerate the uptake of knowledge and innovation to make the industry more competitive in the global marketplace.
Tim Isaac, AHDB head of Knowledge Exchange (Cereals & Oilseeds), said: “We’re setting up these farms to make the connection between research and farming stronger.
“Monitor Farms play an important part but tend to look at issues on that specific farm. Strategic Farms, however, focus on the broader strategic needs of the industry and use trials-based approaches and sound economic data to fulfil those needs.”
Selected research findings and technical developments from AHDB and non-AHDB activity will be identified, tested and demonstrated at the Strategic Farms. Short- and long-term field and farm-scale trials will be exploited to generate evidence-based results.
Tim said: “To make strategic farms a success, we need to recruit the best. This means identifying highly respected individuals with excellent communication and presentation skills, who have experience of, and are willing to host, independent trials and demonstrations.
“Recruiting ex-monitor farmers helps us tap into well-established profiles and realise the full legacy value of the Monitor Farms.
“Eight out of 15 monitor farmers expressed an interest in becoming our first strategic farmer, showing how much they value being part of a network that creates and shares practical business data.”
Stowmarket Monitor Farm
Brian Barker was selected to be first strategic farmer for AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds because of his impressive record as a monitor farmer. The final meeting of his Stowmarket Monitor Farm takes place today (30 June 2017).
Brian said: “I want to build on the Monitor Farm project and look at the short- and long-term impact of decisions on my business.
“Understanding risk management is key, as is financial scrutiny of farm trials. As a host of a strategic farm, I want to make decisions that bring the best returns on investment. Most of all, I want to share my journey with others.
“Farming is a dynamic and ever-changing industry. If you sleep, you get left behind. I hope this Strategic Farm will help the industry stay alert and remain profitable.”
One of the key reasons for establishing the new Strategic Farms is to reduce cost of production across UK arable businesses.
AHDB international benchmarking activity shows that many competitor countries in the grain market have lower costs of production compared with UK production.
UK benchmarking data also reveals a large variation in cost of production, with top performers experiencing lower costs (usually in machinery) and higher yields.
Each Strategic Farm will host three open events at key stages during the cropping year and will connect with local farmer groups, including Monitor Farms and Arable Business Groups. Information will also be promoted via AHDB’s digital channels.
The latest series of Strategic Farms is in addition to those already operated by AHDB – Strategic Potato Farms and Strategic Dairy Farms – which all look to provide robust evidence in a practical local setting to give growers the confidence to implement new ideas on their own farms.
Strategic Farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.
Further information on the initiative will be published at cereals.ahdb.org.uk/strategicfarms