Innovative Farmers was established in 2012 by the Soil Association with the aim of bringing scientific rigour to on-farm trials co-designed by farmers and researchers. With a focus on sustainability and resilience, groups come together on discrete topics and on-farm trials addressing the topics that matter to them.

Innovative Farmers is a network of farmers and growers who are running on-farm trials, on their own terms. These field labs have increased farmers’ confidence in on-farm experimentation and innovation. They have also highlighted to the research community the benefits of collaboration with farmers.  

Since its launch in 2012 Innovative Farmers has nurtured a culture of sharing across the farming industry and seen an increased recognition of the value of on-farm trials.

Primarily funded by The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund the network has a grants programme to cover up to £10k of the trial costs and organises a programme of events and knowledge exchange activities over the year.

Explore the latest field labs and find out more about what the network has learned so far: https://www.innovativefarmers.org/

To join the network or share an idea for a field lab contact the team or follow us on twitter @IFarmers

Related Organisations

Connected Content

The Farmer-Led Innovation Network (FLIN) are UK based organisations driving farmer-led innovation - working together to power up and increase the impact of farmer led innovation initiatives.

The Farming and Land Use Team at the Soil Association have a specialist knowledge of all UK agricultural sectors as well as in depth understanding of organic and agroecological food production systems. Our goal is to support organic and non-organic farmers alike to transition towards more sustainable practices.

Share your views on how we can improve Farmpep.net

The initial Farm-PEP project funded under the Innovate UK competition 'UKRI Ideas to address Covid-19'.  ADAS led consortium to assess the impact of Covid-19 on knowledge exchange in agriculture, and to develop the Farm-PEP web solution at www.farmpep.net. The initial Farm-PEP project began in January 2021 and ran to February 2022.

The intricate web of relationships between physical, chemical and biological soil components underpins crop and livestock health and productivity.

Agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Definition from FAO.

Farm-centric research generally involves On-Farm Experimentation and may be better described as 'Farm Action Research', i.e. research conducted at least in part by and for beneficiaries who also farm. 

The ideas behind Farm-PEP came together in ~2018, drawing from the developments of Agronomics, the YENs, AHDB's Monitor Farm programme and the idea of a 'What Works' Centre for Agriculture. 

Farmers, advisors and researchers working together to understand and improve crop nutrition on-farm

Inferring the right conclusions from field trials is important - how confident can you be that a result is 'real' rather than due to the underlying noise? As part of the Farm-PEP FIP project we are working with BGS to explore the best ways to communicate confidence, uncertainty, significance, probability and value with farmers and growers.

How should we ensure the long term growth and development of the PEP platform and community?  Give us your ideas here

Innovation for Agriculture (IfA) is an independent knowledge exchange charity that aims to bridge the gap between science and practice. 

An Innovative Farmers Field Lab with four sheepers farmers working with ADAS has shown that long-held fears of red clover in herbal leys affecting fertility in sheep are unfounded, with the findings that inclusion of the legume can even have a positive effect on pregnancy rates.

A new Field Lab from Innovative Farmers investigating how farmers can better harness the power of flowers to fight pests.

ADAS have produced a new guide with our five top tips for successful on-farm trials. We'd love you to give it a try and to hear about what products or approaches you're testing on farm - by sharing the results of trials, we can learn more together.

Innovative Farmers has now been running for a decade, facilitating farmer-led research to some of

Scientific paper looking at the relationships between scientists and farmers:

Agricultural research is conducted by a range of organisations, from individual farmers, through advisors, distributors, manufacturers, charities, societies, supply chain companies, levy bodies, universities and research institutes.  This page aims to connect across these often disparate sources.

The development of Farm-PEP Performance Enhancement Partnerships to support on-farm knowledge generation through shared ideas, data and experimentation. Funded as part of Farming Innovation Pathways programme from Defra and Innovate UK Transforming Food Production.

FarmPEP aims to connect the many networks, communities and groups across Agriculture. Add your network as a Group and connect to the 'Networks' Topic to have your network show up below. 

Knowledge Exchange in Agriculture in the UK is diverse, with many organisations involved. That is part of the reason for creating Farm-PEP, to help provide connections to what many percieve as a fragmented landscape.

Many of the most telling innovations that make a difference on-farm come from farmers themselves, or from close collaboration between farmers, advisors, industry and researchers

This Innovative Farmers Field Lab investigated defoliation as a control for cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) larval populations in oilseed rape. It worked with eight farmers to look at the potential for controlling cabbage stem flea beetle by mowing and grazing OSR crops

Devon silvopasture 12-year on-farm trial including site at Rothamsted's North Wyke

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‘Healthy soil, Healthy food and Healthy people’

Pasture Optimisation for Resilience and Livelihoods (PASTORAL) will work with farmers to co-design a new digital platform to help improve data to inform on-farm decision making to increase farm productivity and carbon efficiency using satellite data to plan pasture management.    

This field lab was initiated as part of the ADAS project ‘Investigating the distribution and presence, and potential for herbicide resistance of UK brome species in arable farming’, funded by AHDB.  

Guidance from ADAS Agronomics on how best to conduct Line Trials on farm.  

Results from an Innovative Farmers Field Lab with University of Lincoln and Anglian Water showed benefits from drilling rather than broadcasting to establish a catch crop.   

Innovative Farmers, as part of their involvement in the Horizon Europe LEGUMINOSE project we will be setting up trials with Reading University to look at the benefits of intercropping in arable rotations.

Tree forage has many nutritional benefits for livestock as it diversifies their diet, provides additional nutrients and contains tannins that reduce methane production. Dr Lindsay Whistance from Organic Research Centre offers her advice on the best trees for silvopasture in a recent Innovative Farmers blog. 

Despite the many benefits of growing maize, conventional growing practices can lead to negative environmental impacts, particularly in terms of soil erosion and runoff.   A group of farmers in the SW have set up a field lab to demonstrate that by changing the way maize is grown, you can reduce these negative impacts without reducing yield.  These changes include a move to strip tilling rather than conventional ploughing, and trialing different cover crops, both seasonal and perennial,  to enhance soil health and reduce inputs.

The new field lab with Innovative Farmers is investigating bale grazing, a common practice in North America and Canada, where bales are put out in summer to feed cattle through winter.

  Join with members of the Innovative Farmers network past and present for an insp

Farmer Innovation Group as part of YEN Yield Testing project on achieving Deeper Rooting. Encouragement of deep burrowing earthworms might enhance yields by enabling deeper rooting, and capture of more sub-soil water.

Network of farmers advisors and researchers working together, sharing ideas and data and testing solutions to increase soil carbon

This field lab's objective is to investigate the potential of living mulches, creating a permanent clover understory to suppress weeds, cycle nutrients, protect and enhance soil health, as a means to achieving organic and low-input no-till systems - that can be more sustainable than those systems they seek to replace.

This Field Lab explores the impact of grazing sheep on over-winter cover crops on soil properties, crop performance and the management of livestock within an arable rotation.

Group coming out of the YEN looking at ways to increase deep rooting, by encouraging deep burrowing earthworms.

A group of farmers is investigating with Harper Adams University how trap crops such as sticky and African nightshade can be used as a biological management practice.

Innovative Farmers are launching a new field lab exploring the use of poly cropping, inoculants and undersown cover crops to control blackgrass (BG) in spring and winter-sown crops.  

Farmers in south west Engalnd are trialling a diverse (16 variety) mix against their current systems of monoculture winter brassicas used for grazing outwintering livestock. Supported by FWAG, they will measure changes in soil health, biodiversity and monitor forage quality and yield

At Groundswell, join us at the Innovative Farmers stand from 12-1 on Thursday 29th June for a clinic on Farm trials: how to make the most of them. A chance to share experiences and have your questions answered by ADAS and IF experts

Bokashi is the Japanese word for “well-fermented organic matter”. Bokashi Manure Treatment is becoming increasingly popular, and involves microorganisms breaking down animal bedding and dung.  It is said to have many benefits, including increased nutrient content of manure and animal welfare improvements. But there is no published work which has shown clear evidence of the benefits of Bokashi manures to UK farmers, crops, soils or the environment. Two farmers in Scotland would like to run a field lab / on-farm trials to evaluate the potential benefits of Bokashi manure treatment on their farms, supported by Innovative Farmers.  As well as measuring the benefits, they are keen to trial the management process, and find out how easy it is to handle and spread the bokashi-treated manure compared with other manures, and to compare their carbon footprints.  The benefits Bokashi Manure Treatment is said to have a number of benefits, including: Improved health of housed animals; Lower odours; Drier bedding; Reduced incidence of flies; Reduced nutrient losses in the finished manure; Reduced manure management costs; Reduced carbon footprint associated with manure management.   Trial design The trials will take place on two farms over a three-year trial.  Animal bedding and dung in the housing will be sprayed with a liquid mixture of microorganisms (known as Effective Microorganisms or EM®) .  This will be provided by Agriton. Once the animals have been removed from the housing, the bedding and dung are taken out, mixed and covered with an impermeable membrane (usually plastic) and left for at least 6 to 8 weeks. The resulting dung can be used in the same way as dung produced by other means Manures made through the Bokashi process will be compared with those made using standard farming practice on both farms Basic soil testing and evaluation will be conducted at the start of the 3 year project (before application of the Bokashi manures/control manures) and at the end of the project. Discussions will also take place with other farmers and community farms in the Field Lab who will also be trialling the bokashi method, to draw on their experiences of using the process.

Sustainable agriculture through legume-cereal intercropping.  The LEGUMINOSE project will provide science-based, farmer-led, and economically viable systems and techniques for legume-based intercropping. In the UK the Farm Living Labs will be run as an Innovative Farmers field lab [https://www.innovativefarmers.org/]. We are looking for 20 farms to take part in trials looking at yield and soil health benefits of intercrops from a range of crop mixes in organic, conventional and regenerative systems as well as in different locations across the UK. If you are interested contact Jerry [email protected] We'd also love to hear from farmers about their experiences of intercropping, or what prevents them from practicing it! Please help the project by completing this anonymous questionnaire (it takes about 15 minutes). Thankyou.  

This field lab involves growers who are part of an emerging network aiming to re-establish a regenerative textile (particularly linen) supply chain in the UK, with a particular focus in Scotland. The trial’s main objectives are to ascertain how well flax grows in a range of soil types, measured by crop establishment and yield; and to compare the performance of 3 varieties in a range of soil types. The secondary objectives are to explore factors which may influence the retting process (e.g. time retted, number of turnings, weather); and to compare the fibre quality of 3 varieties.

This group of commercial blackcurrant growers are exploring living mulches as  an alternative weed control method to reduce herbicide use.  The objective of the trial is to test a range of different living mulch species/ mixes to determine if they could offer a viable alternative method of weed control in bush and cane fruit.  This field lab has been instigated by blackcurrant growers Ltd.’s R&D committee.

Ten farmers in the North Yorkshire Moors are working with independent grassland experts and researchers from the University of Leeds to better understand the value of an under-utilised option for leys - cocksfoot.

Silvopasture is a form of agroforestry where trees are deliberately planted to be part of a farms livestock system. Three tree planting designs are being trialled as part of a field lab investigating the benefits of agroforestry.

In Devon, a group of six farmers and Rothamsted’s North Wyke research farm have teamed up through Innovative Farmers to form the Devon Silvopasture Network.

This is the final report detailing Innovative Farmers field lab trials which aimed to determine the impacts of living mulches on cash crop yields and weed composition.

What is silvopasture? Silvopasture is a form of agroforestry where trees are deliberately planted to be part of a farms livestock system. Three tree planting designs are being trialled as part of a field lab investigating the benefits of agroforestry.

Four farmers, who are working with ADAS in an Innovative Farmers field lab, have found grazing ewes on herbal leys containing the legume can even have a positive effect on pregnancy rates.

Silvopasture is a form of agroforestry where trees are deliberately planted to be part of a farms livestock system. Three tree planting designs are being trialled as part of a field lab investigating the benefits of agroforestry.

Healthy, well-managed soils support productive and healthy crops and pasture and allows for a profitable and resilient farming system.

PGMs are fertilisers from perennial plant material. In this Innovative Farmers webinar we discuss how the system can work best for growers

Intercropping is known to have environmental and economic benefits, but which varieties work best together in a UK climate?

Wireworms are the larval stage of click beetles.

  Results from a field lab investigating if it's possible to irrigate with saline water. 

Through Innovative Farmers, a group of organic and conventional farmers have teamed up with the Organic Research Centre and AHDB to investigate how to grow living mulches.

On-farm trials can be a very effective way to explore ideas and test practices! Read along to find out 10 tips to make the most of this practical research method  in real life conditions.

Can we breed resilient lambs that tackle worms naturally without impacting their growth rate? Find out more from the latest on-farm trial.

This recording from the Oxford Real Farming Conference is of a discussion between farmers involved in the Innovative Farmers Bale grazing project.

Perennial Green Manures are trees, shrubs and perennial plants grown in permanent areas to provide nitrogen-rich leaves to fertilise horticultural and arable land.

Join us (AHDB), alongside Pasture for Life and Innovative Farmers, for an on-farm discussion covering everything you need to know about bale grazing.

Six Pasture for Life member farms have come together in an Innovative Farmers Field Lab to undertake a four year study to explore the impacts of bale grazing on soil and forage.

There has been a lot of interest in strip tillage among vegetable growers recently.  

Interested in on-farm trials? Find our more about the benefits of implementing this methodology; and find our how to address some common challenges.

The objective of this farmer-led research trial was to investigate a new approach to winter feed provision for livestock that considers the overall health of the farm system, including soil health, biodiversity, animal welfare, farmer welfare and economic sustainability.

In this Field Lab two farmers in Scotland have teamed up with soil expert, Audrey Litterick, Earthcare Technical, to see if there are practical benefits to using bokashi – treating manure with microorganisms that break down animal bedding and dung – over a 3-year period.  

A trial site in Suffolk investigated a range of management techniques, including time of sowing f