Day 2: Giving it welly
Grassroots innovation for sustainable agriculture

Day 2 highlighted grassroots innovation in farming, growing and land use, to lift the productivity, environmental and welfare performance of organic and ecological agriculture and explored what can be learnt from social innovation in other sectors like health or education.

Delegates heard from some of the most creative people in British farming and growing today, short-listed for a new Innovation Award recognising outstanding innovators in agriculture.

Delegates also heard from Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts, and Rowena Young, Chief Executive of Urbivore, about what farming can learn from social innovation in other areas of society.

There was also an international perspective from Professor Robert Chambers, Institute of Development Studies, while the NFU’s Adam Quinney gave the wider UK farming perspective.

In the final plenary session of the day the discussion focused on how organic and non-organic farmers can learn from each other, with Tina Barsby, Director, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and Professor Nic Lampkin, Director, Organic Research Centre.

Innovation award

Ezee TreeThe award celebrates outstanding innovators in farming and growing across the UK. It recognises the achievement of individuals, teams, companies or organisations who are:

  • Pioneering practical new approaches to farming and growing
  • Achieving real benefits for people, the planet or animal welfare.
  • Promoting sustainable agriculture in line with organic principles.

The award was open to anyone who is doing these things, for example producers, community groups, scientists, IT developers, farming consultants, designers and engineers. The overall winner received a cash prize of £3000 and two runners-up received £1000 cash each.

Winner of the award

The Ezee Tree Guard is a real alternative to the ubiquitous green plastic tree guard.  Everybody has probably seen discarded tree shelters lying on the ground around newly planted trees. The Ezee Tree Guard avoids this as it is made from 100% waste cardboard and is fully compostable. It is supported by a bamboo cane, a fast growing natural resource. This tree guard does not harm animals and is completely sustainable and cheaper than the plastic alternative.

Runners up

Aquagronomy is working to reduce the amount of water and silt that runs off fields. The frequent passage of vehicles along tramlines across fields compacts the soil which makes it easier for traffic, but creates conditions that favour water run-off and soil erosion. The unique design of the Wheel Track Roller creates small drainage channels within the tramline. Instead of running off the water collects and percolates into the soil.

FarmDrop is building the UK’s only online local food marketplace,  creating sustainable local food systems where producers can trade food with shoppers directly. Shoppers are able to place orders with a number of different producers. Then, at an agreed time and place,  shoppers and producers meet to exchange the goods. Since producers only take the goods that have been ordered, there is zero waste. Producers keep 80% of sales and are provided with the software to market and sell to a group of shoppers.

Speakers, audio and presentations

10:00: Welcome and introduction to the innovation award
Helen Browning, Chief Executive, Soil Association Charlotte Smith, presenter BBC Radio 4's Farming Today

Session 1: Social innovation for sustainable agriculture: what can we learn from other sectors? 

10:10: Introducing social innovation
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Arts
  What can farming learn from other sectors? 
Rowena Young, Chief Executive, Urbivore
Download Rowena Young's presentation [pdf, 439 kb]
 

Social innovation in action 
Ed Dowding, Founder, FoodTrade.com
Download Ed Dowding's presentation [pdf, 2 mb]

  The Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) 
Professor Judy Orme, Professor of Public Health and Sustainability, University of West of England
Download Professor Judy Orme's presentation [pdf, 927 kb]

Innovation award: round 1

11:10: Compered by Charlotte Smith, shortlisted award finalists present their entries on stage.

Session 2: Farmer-led innovation: what can we learn from other countries?

12:00: Farmer first - a global revolution?
Professor Robert Chambers, Institute of Development Studies
  Innovation - What's stopping you? 
Heather Wildman, Nuffield Scholar and Senior Dairy Co Extension Officer
Download Heather Wildman's presentation [pdf 515 kb]
  Putting farmers first – field labs and farmer-led funding
Tom MacMillan, Innovation Director, Soil Association
Download Tom MacMillan's presentation [pdf, 1.7 mb]
  Key ideas for UK agriculture
Adam Quinney, Vice President, National Farmers Union

Innovation award: round 2

13:15: Compered by Charlotte Smith, shortlisted award finalists present their entries on stage.
13:30: Lunch

Session 3: Ecological innovation: what can organic and non-organic farming learn from each other?

14:30: The UK Agri-tech Strategy 
Tina Barsby, Director, National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB)
Download Tina Barsby's presentation [pdf 425 kb]
  Practical innovation in agro-ecology
Stephen Briggs, Principal Consultant, Abacus
Download Stephen Briggs' presentation [pdf, 3.9 mb]
  Game-changing research priorities for organic agriculture
Professor Nic Lampkin, Director, Organic Research Centre
Download Nic Lampkin's presentation [pdf 1.9 mb]
  Key ideas for UK agriculture
Professor Tim Benton, UK champion for Global Food Security 
Download Tim Benton's presentation [pdf 985 kb]

Innovation award: round 3

15:30: Compered by Charlotte Smith, shortlisted award finalists present their entries on stage.

Presentation of the innovation award

16:00: Charlotte Smith, presenter BBC Radio 4's Farming Today
Lyndon Edwards, Vice Chairman, OMSCO
16:30: Closing words: Orna NiChionna, Chair of Trustees, Soil Association

Key quotes of the day:

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Helen Browning, Soil Association Chief Executive

"We're very keen to work with non-organic farmers too - to share our knowledge."
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Charlotte Smith, BBC Radio 4's Farming Today

"Today you will award thousands of pounds to people who are doing amazing things with innovation."
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Matthew Taylor, Royal Society of Arts

"Social innovators often look through the eyes of a designer, not a policy maker, because it's about behaviour change."
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Rowena Young, Chief Executive, Urbivore

"As organic farmers you are more able to see emerging trends as you are looking from a grassroots position."
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Ed Dowding, Founder, FoodTrade.com

"It's a big mental leap to see some competitors as collaborators."
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Professor Judy Orme, University of West of England

"Sustainable consumption has to go hand in hand with sustainable production."
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Professor Robert Chambers, Institute of Development Studies

"Farmers innovate every day, even if it's not called that... farming is all about relationships - get those right and everything improves for everyone."
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Heather Wildman, Nuffield Scholar

"Vision, communication and collaboration are keys for innovative success. Innovation does not need to be a lonely or solitary place."
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Tom MacMillan, Innovation Director, Soil Association

"Field labs are about solutions and answers as well as identifying problems."
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Adam Quinney, National Farmers Union

"We really need research to focus on animal welfare and soil health, working with farmers on the practicalities."
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Tina Barsby, Director, NIAB

"Drop the labels, we are all farmers."
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Stephen Briggs, Abacus

"Agro-forestry not a mixture of systems, but a new system"
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Nic Lampkin, Director, Organic Research Centre

"Sometimes we have to stop and ask ourselves who research is for."
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Tim Benton, UK Champion for food security

"Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of our children to meet their own needs"
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Lyndon Edwards, Vice Chairman, OMSCO

"It's hard to be green when you're in the red!"
 
Find out about day 1 - Good food for all

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The Soil Association 2013 conference is kindly supported by:

Day 1 sponsors

Big Lottery Fund Food for Life Partnership

Day 2 sponsor

OMSCo

Feature sponsors

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Exhibitor sponsors

Triodos Bank

Supporter sponsors

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