Farmers looking to take their record-keeping paperless but who baulk at the prospect of software that’s too complex and not designed with their business in mind may like to look at HUSK (www.huskdata.com).
This is a new app that’s been developed by BOFIN member James Hart of BHI Farming, based in Gloucestershire. He’s offering other BOFIN members a free trial of the app, that has just been launched and is still at Beta version.
“Our tractors may be able to steer themselves but to get their performance onto a computer is tedious,” notes James.
“We’re often unable to find the relevant data because it is somewhere out on the farm scribbled on a bit of paper, if it was even recorded at all. So knowing how many hours work to charge on, whether a farm assurance or stewardship record is up to date or simply how many loads of grain have left the farm can turn into a time-consuming task.”
Determined to get a grip on these records and ensure he always had up-to-date data at hand, James introduced a system across the business, originally based on Google Forms. This was developed into an app two years ago that’s been refined and adapted for general farm use.
“You can set HUSK up to record whatever you want – we now have no paper on the farm – and it takes less than an hour’s setup to have all the forms you require,” he says.
“But it doesn’t seek to replace the more complex apps you might use to record spray applications, for instance. This is for simple records that are difficult to record without paper. You can then review all operations and transfer data to another program for analysis and investigation.”
James has received interest in the app from neighbours and members of his local arable study group, so has offered it on a free-of-charge trial basis to BOFIN members – those interested should contact email@example.com.
The intention is to form a knowledge cluster to exchange feedback, tips and ideas on how to use and develop the app.
The PGRO has launched the Legume Innovation Network (LIN) and is presenting a series of eight free webinars that will explore the global opportunities, barriers and success stories surrounding legume production.
The webinars are part of the LegValue and TRUE project – a high-level programme of events hosted by experts from across Europe who aim to unlock the potential for greater production across the globe.
“Pulses have an incredibly bright future, both for farmers who want to grow a sustainable, diverse rotation, and for consumers seeking a versatile, protein-rich food with multiple health benefits,” says PGRO chief executive Roger Vickers.
“I believe they can fit hand-in-glove with the UK’s new Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes, so now is an opportune time to re-double our efforts in sharing information and understanding which is what this project is all about.”
The online events mark the end of two collaborative EU Horizon-2020 funded projects which aimed to empower legume-supported food and feed production in across Europe. LIN will build on the projects’ legacies, says Roger, becoming a stakeholders’ forum. This will promote awareness of new insights, services or requirements for commercially competitive production and consumption of legume crops in Europe.
“I hope it will link people with similar interests, provide opportunities for challenges to be resolved more easily, with potential partners finding resources for mutual benefit, and directly help realise more sustainable agri-food systems.”
LegValue and TRUE project webinar programme
|Digging into legumes and the potential of the Legume Innovation Network
|Optimising legume production
|Legume-based value chains, farm gate and beyond the market
|The diversity of end uses for legumes
|Pushing the boundaries in legume breeding
|How legume science is enabling industry
|The road map for legumes: Policy and the role in transformation to greater legume production
|Roundup: Bringing the Legume Innovation Network together
|All webinars take place at 9:00am British Summer Time; see www.pgro.org for details.
UKRI and Defra have announced an R&D collaboration for a new funding opportunity, Farming Innovation Pathways.
The competition will be delivered through UKRI’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Transforming Food Production, aimed at developing new and existing farm-focused innovations.
UKRI has said it’s keen to ensure Farming Innovation Pathways translates leading research in agriculture into practical guidance to directly benefit farmers and support them to address the challenges of productivity, sustainability, and net zero emissions in UK farming.
The first competition of its kind following the UK’s departure from the EU, it will pave the way for R&D to “turbocharge” future innovation in the agricultural sector, said the non-departmental public body, responsible for the government’s £8bn annual R&D budget.
Farming Innovation Pathways will act as a bridge between the final stages of the Transforming Food Production programme and the launch of the Defra R&D Innovation package in 2022.
There are a number of innovations already funded by the programme in areas such as insect farming, sustainable livestock feed, agricultural robotics and autonomous growing systems.
Funded through Defra’s Future Farming & Countryside Programme, this £12 million opportunity will bring together farmers, growers and businesses, enabling them to develop novel technological solutions.
The competition has a dual-pronged approach, supporting a range of projects which can be from the initial spark of an idea through to developing transformational technologies aimed at revitalising farming practice and which can be taken up across the sector.
Farming Innovation Pathways aims to support the adoption of innovative technologies and practices, so an important aspect will be that applicants develop solutions with the engagement of farmers and growers.
The funding is split between:
- feasibility projects (£5m): to evaluate the potential of early-stage ideas or innovations that tackle on-farm challenges, that could lead to further R&D to develop ideas into technically and commercially feasible solutions
- industrial research (£7m): to develop novel high-potential solutions targeting real issues affecting farmers, growers and other agribusinesses, or further develop existing solutions. This will deliver transformative solutions that tackle problems farmers are currently facing. It will include working with stakeholders to assess how solutions will be integrated within production systems to achieve widespread adoption.
Katrina Hayter, challenge director for UKRI’s Transforming Food Production challenge, said Defra’s involvement would ensure a coordinated approach to support innovation to help develop a sustainable agricultural sector.
“There are many new individual solutions for the farming sector, but strong engagement with farmers in the innovation process ensures that these solutions can be quickly deployed within an agricultural production system.
“It is also really important that we can demonstrate the benefits of these solutions to farmers and growers, as well as the wider industry. There are many economic and environmental challenges facing the agriculture sector in the UK and further afield.
“In this context, it is vital that we work with innovators and farmers to ensure good ideas and new technologies have clear routes to adoption, effective business benefits for users and the ability to improve longer-term productivity and sustainability of the sector.”
Victoria Prentis, Defra Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, said she wanted the Farming Innovation Pathways competition to bring farmers and growers the opportunity to see their “bold and innovative” ideas become reality.
“We want to see farmers manage their businesses in a way that delivers profitable food production and the recovery of nature, using the best modern technology available today.
“Promising innovations such as robotics and automation, and novel food production systems have the potential to transform business performance for our farmers and help them address some of the industry’s greatest challenges.”
UKRI’s £90m Transforming Food Production programme is part of the ISCF and aims to help the agricultural sector grow economically with less environmental impact.
The four-year programme will set food production systems towards net zero emissions by 2040 by producing food in ways that are more efficient, resilient and sustainable, said UKRI.
It aims to accelerate the development and adoption of integrated precision approaches and focuses on the development, demonstration and adoption of data-driven systems and technologies.
The remit includes both crop and farmed animal production, as well, as new production systems. The long-term success of the challenge is dependent on a diverse range of farm businesses adopting new technologies and approaches, added UKRI.
Plans to consult on gene editing – which could unlock substantial benefits to nature, the environment and help farmers with crops resistant to pests, disease or extreme weather and to produce healthier, more nutritious food – have been set out by environment secretary, George Eustice in his speech at the Oxford Farming Conference.
The consultation will focus on stopping certain gene editing organisms from being regulated in the same way as genetic modification, as long as they could have been produced naturally or through traditional breeding. This approach has already been adopted by a wide range of countries across the world, including Japan, Australia and Argentina.
The government says it will continue to work with farming and environmental groups to develop the right rules and ensure robust controls are in place to maintain the highest food safety standards while supporting the production of healthier food.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, George Eustice said: “Gene editing has the ability to harness the genetic resources that mother nature has provided, in order to tackle the challenges of our age. This includes breeding crops that perform better, reducing costs to farmers and impacts on the environment, and helping us all adapt to the challenges of climate change.
“Its potential was blocked by a European Court of Justice ruling in 2018, which is flawed and stifling to scientific progress. Now that we have left the EU, we are free to make coherent policy decisions based on science and evidence. That begins with this consultation.”
Consulting with academia, environmental groups, the food and farming sectors and the public is the beginning of this process which, depending on the outcome, will require primary legislation scrutinised and approved by Parliament.
Responding to the announcement, the NFU has welcomed the consultation, with vice president, Tom Bradshaw, noting the huge potential gene editing has for UK growers. “New precision breeding techniques such as gene editing have the potential to offer huge benefits to UK farming and the environment and are absolutely critical in helping us achieve our climate change net zero ambition.
“Certainty, transparency and trust in the regulation of biotechnologies, such as gene editing, are essential for farmers and industry, society and scientists, so that safe and effective precision breeding can be delivered as part of a thriving, knowledge-based, food and farming sector and we look forward to responding to this government consultation in detail.
“We know that on its own gene editing will not be a silver bullet, but it could be a very important tool to help us meet the challenges for the future.”
The consultation will run for ten weeks from 7 Jan to 17 Mar at 23:59. The full consultation document will shortly be available here on Citizen Space when published at 00:15 and applies to England only.