Technology is key in delivering a green Brexit

For more than forty years, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has decided how we farm our land, the food we grow and how we should manage the natural environment.

Now that we are leaving the EU, the Government is proposing that we use this as an opportunity to readdress agricultural policy and adopt one that focuses on environmental enhancement and supports profitable, sustainable food production. In other words, they are directing us towards a ‘Green Brexit’.

Agriculture employs nearly 500,000 people and is a key part of the food and drink industry, which contributes £112 billion to the economy. Agriculture accounts for over 70% of land use in the UK and has a major influence on our environment. Government wants a dynamic, more self-reliant agricultural industry, one that allows us to continue to compete globally, produce to high standards and increase export trading – but also one that is richer for the environment.

Michael Gove believes that there is huge opportunity for UK agriculture to improve its competitiveness – developing the next generation of food and farming technology, adopting the latest agronomic techniques, reducing the impact of pests and diseases, investing in skills and equipment and collaborating with other farmers and processors.

At the recent opening of Farm491’s new Alliston Centre, at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, which is a £4.2m centre for businesses and agritech entrepreneurs looking to develop and expand agritech solutions, NFU President, Minette Batters touched on the topic of a ‘Green Brexit’. She said that ‘Brexit will present a myriad of challenges’ and that ‘UK agriculture is and will continue to embrace technology as tools for the future.’ Minette added; “If we don’t invest in new technology we will never deliver on the Government’s strategy for a ‘Green Brexit’. Technology in farming is the future.”

Commenting on the importance of technology in farming, Russ Carrington of Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, a Farm491 member, said: “Technology plays an important role in us championing high welfare and environmentally friendly farming and connecting the subsequent produce to the public. As the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association works with farmers right across the country, often located in remote rural areas, our use of technology to communicate, collaborate and learn from one another is both vital and valuable. Our members forum is entirely web based, applications for using our Pasture for Life certification mark are also processed online and we offer consumers of produce the opportunity to trace this back to the farm using smart phones and QR codes on pack to link to our database.”

Another Farm491 member, James Bolesworth of CRM AgriCommodities added; “We are seeing a rapid advance in technology within agriculture already with the need for farming businesses and businesses within the supply chain to become more efficient and productive. This advance is only likely to be accelerated by Brexit. If financial support is limited or adapted from the current model, farmers will need to look more closely at their businesses to compensate. Technology already does and will continue to play an important part in farming businesses leveraging more value out of the commodities they produce. CRM Agri utilise technology to make grain marketing more efficient, manage data and improve decision making and transparency.”