Oliver McEntyre, National Agricultural Strategy Director for Barclays, talks about his thoughts on collaborate to innovate.
Farming in the UK does not have the greatest reputation when it comes to collaboration, there are pockets and examples where collaboration is complete and total – in my experience these tend to be in the specialist sectors or where there is little choice to collaborate, for example gathering a common or fell. Machinery Rings do work but are not as prevalent as might make economic sense.
As the changes in agricultural policy, especially in England with the reduction of BPS beginning to bite from next year, collaboration in an effort to cut costs will become more common perhaps, as will the potential to work together across farming sectors. Where there is a drive to replenish soil organic matter on arable rotations, there will be great opportunities to interact with those in the livestock sector either for winter grazing or exporting manure from one holding to another.
Another area that may benefit from collaboration is investing in technology – where there is a clear case for investment to improve efficiency or allow for more precise land management, either for the greater good or as part of an environmental scheme. Potentially the level of costs could preclude or deter from investment, but if shared across other farms the scale of the investment may begin to appear to be less significant when set against the potential return.
One area for UK agriculture to get into some serious collaboration is with the tech providers and innovators. All too often I have approaches from innovators with solutions to problems that either do not exist or they are not issues at the forefront of the minds of the industry. Some innovators do have farming backgrounds, but many do not and through the interaction of collaboration the UK industry can harness the technology and thought processes to of those from other sectors to help move the industry forward at pace to remain at the forefront of global agriculture and environmental management.
That is the ethos of Barclays Eagle Labs and the collaboration between Lincoln University as well as many others around the UK. So if you are an innovator, a farmer or someone embedded in UK farming – whether you have a problem to solve or a potentially solution, engage with the people who can help solve the issue or put the technology to a solution.