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Report by Lord Curry (Food & Farming Futures), James Lowenburg-DeBoer and Michael Lee (Harper Adams University) into how agricultural science and extension can be supported and co-ordinated to address the productivity gap in UK agriculture.    

Executive Summary

The objective of the Application of Science to Realise the Potential of the Agricultural Transition working group was to explore why the UK has lagged behind other nations in productivity and innovation. The group concluded that a key factor is fragmentation at all stages in the delivery of scientific knowledge which is impacting the sector’s ability to advance agricultural production, achieve carbon net-zero and enhance other sustainability parameters (e.g. biodiversity, animal welfare, ‘rural levelling-up’). This document is a synthesis of the group’s discussions intended primarily for an audience of UK policy makers and agricultural leaders.

A summary of the recommendations:

1) Food security should be considered by the UK government as a public good and included in the criteria for funding under the “public money for public goods” approach.

2) Additional Government funding should be allocated to agricultural extension and the delivery of scientific knowledge. This is justified because UK carbon net-zero goals are designed for the public good, due to the urgency imposed by climate change, the biodiversity crisis and food security.

3) To achieve food security, carbon net-zero and biodiversity goals, the agricultural sector must attract talent from throughout UK society.

4) Universities with strong local and regional agricultural interests should consider making farm level extension an explicit part of the job description and evaluation of some academic staff.

5) While in-person, facilitated peer-to-peer events at monitor/demonstration farms should continue to be an important part of the extension effort, the tools of interactive electronic communication should also be harnessed to help farmers in developing their knowledge.

6) National co-ordination of demonstration farms throughout the UK should be encouraged. These farms are currently managed within the ecosystems of various agricultural innovation and technology organisations.

7) The Government review of the Agri Tech Centres should consider establishing a single management structure to build on their shared vision, improve cross-sector working, achieve greater efficiencies and influence.

8) Government should establish a “What Works Centre” to streamline the evaluation and dissemination of agri-food research. To reduce fragmentation of the agricultural research and extension system, the centre should use a joinedup approach to coordinate closely with all parts of the UK agricultural research and extension system.

9) Agricultural research funding should include stronger support for collaborative, problemsolving science and extension requirements. These requirements could be fulfilled by the research funding recipient or partner organisations.

Conclusion

The UK agri-food sector is facing unparalleled challenges created by the confluence of climate change, food security concerns, and the farm policy/trade changes linked to Brexit. To respond to these challenges UK farmers and agribusinesses need access to the latest science and technology, but evidence shows that the UK lags behind comparable highincome countries in effective agricultural technology use. The recommendations from this working group are intended to speed technology development and adoption by reducing fragmentation and increasing coordination of extension organisations. Without these changes the UK agri-food sector will continue to lag behind on agricultural productivity and innovation.

 

Related Organisations

Connected Content

Farm-PEP aims to bring together all the sources of useful knowledge for Agriculture, whether from academic science, applied research projects, industry trials, farmers own trials or simple on-farm experience. Listed below are useful websites, organisations and websites that we know of.  Add any we've missed in the comments box or by adding as new content, or better still, as a new Group.  

The Agricultural Universities Council (AUC-UK) is a collaboration of the UK universities with agricultural schools or departments. AUC-UK works together to coordinate our teaching and research, to make the biggest contribution we can to a resilient and sustainable future for agriculture, land management and food systems.

Building the right skills for the agricultural industry has been recognised as crucial to its future success.

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.

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.

The National Library for Agri-Food serves agri-food practitioners by providing access to recent, high quality, science-evidenced information and guidance in a well-constructed online repository with good metadata standards for easy searching and robust perma-links to content.

As the population grows, so do our demands on the planet. Managing this resource has never been so important. Since it was founded in 1901, Harper has been designed to meet this challenge. Set on a 494 hectare farm, we are the leading specialist university tackling the future development of our planet's food production, processing, animal sciences, engineering, land management and sustainable business.

Educating, inspiring and empowering current and future farmers to achieve net zero within a sustainable farming and food system.

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The independent, collaborative news and information source for farming and food

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