March 2022 saw Fram Farmers and the Suffolk Agricultural Association, supported by Scrutton Bland, launch the first ever Suffolk Farming Conference.
The objective of the conference was to keep farmers informed of topical developments from across the agricultural industry. The theme of the conference was “Getting to Grips with the Future” with the intention for a variety of speakers to present on subjects impacting farmers now and in the all too near future. Exclusively open to members of both organisations, the conference proved to be an excellent success with over 250 delegates in attendance.
Taking place at Trinity Park, Suffolk, on Thursday 3rd March, the conference was introduced by Fram Farmers Chairman Andrew Read with a video message from NFU President Minette Batters. The morning saw Jonathan Lane, Head of Grain Trading, and Marc Ostwald, Chief Economist & Global Strategist, join us from ADM for a Commodity Review and Outlook. Their insight into the market and futures was very interesting, especially given the impact of the war in Ukraine and the after effects of the covid pandemic and Brexit.
The second session of the day was “Farming Beyond BPS” with Emily Norton, Head of Rural Research, from Savills presenting a Summary of Changes and Potential Impact, followed by Giles Cooper, Partner at Wilson Wraight, talking about the Implication for Contract Farming Agreements & FBTs.
Carl Atkin from Terravost and Thomas Gent from Agreena came together to discuss the final morning topic – “Net Zero in Agriculture: Income, Cost or Mission Impossible”. Carl gave an overview of where commercial opportunities lie within regenerative farming, who may end up bearing the transition costs and what it might mean for supply chains and supply chain relationships in the coming years. Thomas presented his experience of being a farmer entering a carbon offsetting scheme and the important features for fellow farmers to look out for when considering joining such a scheme as well as how these systems work in practice.
Jack Deal, Business Advisory Director of Scrutton Bland – the principal sponsor for the conference, gave a summary of the morning discussions before the conference was then intervalled by a lunch break. This time also provided the opportunity for delegates to have the chance to speak to dozens of suppliers who sponsored the conference, as well as catch up with fellow farmers given the event was one of the first opportunities post-covid for the community to meet without restriction.
In the afternoon, the conference resumed in the form of breakout sessions took place which delegates were free to choose which of the six talks they attended. These sessions included “Automated Farming”, presented by Fram Farmer member Andrew Williams of Home Farm Nacton, who in 2021 purchased the first commercially available robotic tractor in the UK. Bent Christiansen of Agrointelli, the Danish company behind this robot, also presented within this breakout session as did Eddie Pedersen of Farmdroid, another Danish robotics company which has produced an automated robot for sowing and weed control. “Farmers at heart and engineers after that” says Andrew Williams of Farmdroid and Robotti, the three speakers discussed the real-time and practical application of robots in farming and the development process of these machines.
“Making Space for Nature” was presented by Jake Fiennes, Director of Holkham National Nature Reserve, exploring what can be done to encourage more nature within current food and farming systems without impacting on yield and productivity.
Joe Hilton, Sales Manager for JCB, presented “Alternative Power Platforms”, examining how JCB has developed agricultural machinery with the introduction of innovative electronic technology into the company’s range of construction equipment while reinforcing the fundamental role diesel power has to play in JCB’s future in reducing harmful emissions.
Paul Putland, BT, and Hard Fordham and David King of Syngeta presented a session on “Data & Sensor Innovations” and discussed how developments in technology can accurately be applied to the changing arsenal of plant product products, and how new tools can be used to capture the data to further these developments.
Business Services and Membership Development Manager of Fram Farmers, Dan Cox presented “Navigating the New Grants Landscape”, discussing the pre-Brexit landscape and subsequent changes to grants, new support scheme and the application process available to UK farmers today.
John Patrick and Paul Bradford of Sustainable Water Solutions presented their breakout session on “Water Management”. With climate change impacting rainfall and increased demand for water, this topic is both timely and directly affects majority of farmers, with the discussion examining how habits need to change in regards to better water management.
David Barker, President of the Suffolk Agricultural Association, brought the conference to an end with a closing summary thanking the participating speakers, suppliers and sponsors who supported the event as well as the attendees for the making the day a success with hopes the information departed would be utilised across Suffolk and beyond to benefit farmers across the country.
The conference was highly rated by attendees – a post event survey captured the following comments from members: “One of the most timely and informative events of its kind I have been to. Congratulations” and “Overall, a very good day indeed, well organised and delivered. Topical and relevant, very good speakers and well chaired.”
Fram Farmers and the Suffolk Agricultural Association are planning to establish the conference as a biennial event – watch this space as we progress with developments and decide the topic for the 2024 conference. The presentations and recordings of the sessions are available on the Fram Farmers Member Website.