Improving Decision support tools - we need your help!
By Dr Alan Radbourne
Soil & Water Biogeochemist at UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Technology on farms guides and empowers farmers in many ways. Decision support tools (DSTs), for example, can be powerful when it comes to making better and more informed choices. But there are so many available. How do you know which are effective and which are the right ones for the job?
As part of the FABulous Farmers EU Interreg project we’re reviewing a selection DSTs to improve effectiveness and encourage uptake.
DSTs are designed to help farm businesses make decisions and to guide change management planning. Tools can help record, track and analyse data input, provide guidance to facilitate improved farm management or simply act as an information source. They come in many forms, from dynamic software for use online, to mobile apps, to humble paper forms. The perceived value of DSTs is evident in the vast number available, but studies have also found their uptake is limited and perception of their usefulness not always clearly understood.
For regenerative and organic farmers, tech-savvy solutions like DSTs offer an excellent opportunity to shift practice in order to focus on sustainable and more robust circular agro-ecosystem.
FABulous Farmers DST toolkit
To aid this shift FABulous Farmers is reviewing a selection of the current DSTs available, getting farmers to test them to see how they can be improved and to help plot how they might be updated in the future.
A DST toolkit has been produced outlining which product can help with the management of soil, water, pollination and pest control.
Putting it to the test
The next step is to test a small number of the DSTs. We’re tasked with testing two in particular: the Assist e-planner tool and the Cool Farm Tool.
The Assist e-planner tool has been developed by UKCEH to help farmers and other land managers identify the most suitable places for different environmental management options via free easy-to-use interactive maps.
The Cool Farm Tool is a free online tool to assess farm greenhouse gases, biodiversity and water for sustainability and improved management. The tool has been tested and adopted by a range of companies to support the effective management of cost, productivity and soil health.
Try it out!
We’re looking for as many farmers and land managers as possible to try out these tools (plus any others you’d like to try) and review their effectiveness. They’re free and easy to use and will provide insights that will help improve both your farm’s profitability and sustainability goals. Early in 2021 we will be asking people to feedback their experiences in a very short online form.
If you’d like to know more and give them a try, please email Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Soil Association’s Farming Programme Delivery Manager Kate Still (email@example.com).
This work is part of our FABulous Farmers project:
- Find out more about our work with FAB Farmers.
- Find out more about the full European project.