Capturing the value of sustainable agriculture
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk in Ag about carbon, regenerative agriculture, and farming in a more sustainable way. Many farmers are incredibly interested in sustainable agriculture and have already changed their techniques to reduce environmental impact.
However from talking to farmers, and from my own experience, I know there’s an issue with knowing what to do and where to start. It can all feel a bit overwhelming.
But instead of just thinking about how we become more sustainable, something we need to consider as a sector is how we retain the value of the sustainable activity that takes place on farms?
What are we trying to achieve with sustainability and how will we retain value and monetise it when we get there?
Is this direct cash for specific actions or is the value in our brand and enhanced reputation in the market?
Sustainability is a complicated issue
The value of sustainable agriculture practices is often only seen and utilised further up the supply chain. The supply chain demands traceability, an increase in quality, or production against a narrow specification, and farmers have adapted their techniques to be able to deliver that.
On balance there aren’t many players in the supply chain that know a whole lot more than others or who dictate to other parts of it. With sustainability and climate change, we are all in the same boat at the same time.
What are we trying to do with sustainability?
There are a lot of different elements to sustainability. For farmers, it’s about trying to produce food in a sustainable way while nurturing nature and increasing biodiversity.
Underpinning this is the intention to work with nature rather than trying to control it. An example that immediately springs to mind is protecting the soil and letting it do what it’s capable of doing rather than overusing interventions in the form of fertilisers and sprays, and plough-based cultivations.
Sustainability as our ‘brand’
There’s a huge amount of sustainable activity happening on farm. But the question is, how do we capture the value of that? Is there a sustainability ‘brand’ that UK Ag can capture, such as ‘nature friendly farming or “nature friendly food production?’
For individual farmers, going down the sustainability route might open up new diversification opportunities. Visitors may come to the farm or collaborations with like minded farmers could open up joint ventures and in turn create new and stronger market links.
Collaboration is key
There is a momentum now when it comes to sustainability. Farmers are working towards running more sustainable farm businesses, and this is necessary for society. However, all parts of the supply chain need to be sustainable and we all have to collaborate if we are going to be able to make a success of nature friendly food production.