Data is a driver for massive change in farming, and more and more within the sector are seeking solutions that allow them to take full advantage of the benefits it brings. A new partnership between Farmplan, the UK’s leading agricultural software specialists, and Sustainable Landscapes, a landscape-based programme initiated by Future Food Solutions, demonstrates just what the future of sustainable farming can look like – and how it can mean a win-win for farmers and their partners within the supply chain.
“About eight years ago, we began to specifically examine resilience in supply chains for our major clients,” says Steve Cann, Director of Future Food Solutions. “Working closely with farmers demonstrated that their data is incredibly important, and that Gatekeeper, which many of them used, offered a value adding platform, as the more data farmers had, the better it would be for them in terms of managing their business.”
The goal of Sustainable Landscapes is to improve soil quality and water management for more resilient and profitable farming. In Gatekeeper, Steve found widely used software that recorded all the essential data for effective sustainability planning and execution. “We sat down with Farmplan and discussed how we could work together,” he says. “As a result, with the farmers agreement, we can now pull vital information directly out of Gatekeeper to perform a full carbon audit very quickly.”
This partnership helps farmers to improve soil health and farm in a more sustainable way, including the use of cover crops to cultivate biomass and increase soil organic matter (SOM) in their fields – a major sink and source of soil carbon. As Steve explains, a 1% increase in SOM per hectare allows that area of land to absorb an additional 240 tons of water.
“In one example, we saw a farmer increase their SOM from 2% to 6%,” says Steve. “They have close to 1,000 tonnes of water available in that hectare of land that would not have been there a few years ago. All of this is verified and driven by independent soil testing and assessment. We’re not marking our own homework. It’s a real win-win, creating a virtuous circle where farmers, water companies, and brands all benefit.”
For UK growers, this means being able to farm more sustainably and demonstrate compliance to their supply chain partners – all by simply using the data which they already capture as part of their existing practice. This extends to nutrient capture, offering a further financial benefit. For example, one farm tested their cover crops and discovered 305 kgs of N pulled in per hectare – a hugely valuable gain, especially with the current pricing.
“Fundamentally, this is data that’s already being recorded for compliance,” says Scott Millar, Account Manager at Farmplan. “This partnership just means farmers see an extra benefit from their work, from better utilisation of nutrients to more effective farm management. It’s an exciting prospect for UK farmers who are eager to derive more value from their business in a sustainable way.”