New "field labs" network supports sustainable solutions to growers' challenges

A new network of growers and research bodies to support on-farm innovation was launched at the Houses of Parliament today (12 October).

Image: HW
Image: HW

Part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, Innovative Farmers is a partnership of the Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation, The Soil Association, Organic Research Centre, Waitrose, and now also LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) and Innovation in Agriculture.

The not-for-profit network matches growers with research establishments including Rothamsted Research, IBERS and Harper Adams, providing professional support, a web portal where groups share their learning and access to a dedicated research fund.

The partners aim to award more than £800,000 to Innovative Farmer groups by 2020, and will also help groups apply to the new European Innovation Partnership, unlocking further funding.

Innovation in Agriculture chief executive David Gardner said; "Conventional growers have fewer chemicals to address their problems, along with growing pest and weed resistance to those that remain. They will need to find other solutions using the tools that they do have combined with growing practices based upon sound organic principles.

"Finding the answers won't be straightforward, and providing a framework where growers can explore potential solutions with their peers and experiment on their own farms can only help them find the answers."

Soil Association director of innovation Tom MacMillan said; "More than 750 farmers and growers have been involved in the Duchy Future Farming Programme in the last three years, running field labs on 35 topics. The field labs really struck a chord. We asked these people how we could make it even better and Innovative Farmers is the result.

"Our partnership represents progressive farmers and growers across the industry. Whether they're growing to organic, Integrated Farm Management or other principles, they can pioneer new approaches together."

Duchy Future Farming Programme field labs have already tackled topics from building soil organic matter to trialling biochar, with growers driving investigations.

Produce World Group head of research, development and innovation Guy Thallon said; "We believe that Innovative Farmers provides an effective platform for developing new approaches and are excited to get our grower groups up and running."

Growers, researchers and coordinators can find out more and join the network at

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