What is ELMs? Agri-Tech to support Environmental Land Management

What is ELMs?

The three-tier Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme is part of the UK government’s future farming policy as it seeks to move away from farm support based on direct payments towards one centred on “public money for public goods”.

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2020 – 2024 Countryside Stewardship – those on CS will be able to transition to ELMs
2020 – 2023 ELM scheme design
2020 – 2027 ELM tests and trials on specific elements (43 projects at Aug 2021)
2021 – 2027 Direct payments to be phased out
2021 – 2024 National pilot started for real world testing, 5,500 farmers over a three-year period
2027             Direct payments to end


It is proposed that ELMs has three tiers 

Tier 1: Sustainable Farming Incentive – Encouraging environmentally sustainable farming

Farmers would be paid for measures that help address their direct environmental impacts. These could include nutrient management, pest control, soil improvement, cover crops or planting wildflower margins to encourage sustainable farming.

Tier 2: Local Nature Recovery – Locally targeted environmental outcomes

This tier would focus on local needs and reward collaboration between land managers, potentially with payment on results. It may include: tree and hedge planting, habitat restoration, natural flood management, rights of way provision, recreation infrastructure and education services.

Tier 3: Landscape Recovery – Landscape scale, land-use change projects

These projects would aim to deliver more ambitious environmental targets, such as nature recovery and net zero carbon emissions. It might include woodland creation, peatland restoration and the creation of coastal habitats. These projects will be funded individually.

For more information about ELMs see GOV.UK


Support during the transition to ELMs

The government’s Agricultural Transition Plan covers the period 2020 – 2027 and includes some new funding for technology adoption during the period when the Basic Payment Scheme is phased out and ELMs begins.

More information is available at gov.uk here (June 2021).

This includes the Farm Investment Fund, which offers grants for investment in some types of agri-tech to cover a proportion of the total cost of investment:

  • equipment and technology for storing, sorting, or processing products
  • robotic or automated technology
  • on-farm water storage infrastructure, including reservoir

Agri-tech to support ELMs

Feedback from the Test and Trial scheme was reported on June 2021.

Among recommendations from farmers, landowners and advisors on how to structure the scheme and payments there were also a number of observations about the need for improved tools and processors to support adoption of measures to reduce negative environmental impacts.

In particular, farmers wanted a guide or template for the Land Management Plan (LMP) that could be used to identify the environmental outcomes that could be delivered on their land.

This LMP should include:

  • Map of the farm with basic farm details
  • Environmental baseline that documents and rewards existing public goods delivery
  • Public goods delivery assessment that acknowledges existing standards and certification
  • Assessment of aspirations and opportunities to enhance the quality and quantity of natural capital

Tools required to deliver this would include:

  • Digital mapping tools and those for remote monitoring
  • Natural capital data sets that are shared and can be ground-truthed
  • Baseline assessments – nutrients, soil quality, pollinators
  • Tools to support self-assessment, ie uploading photographs

A number of companies within the Agri-TechE ecosystem are work on technologies with relevance to ELMs.