Wine making shaping up as 'interesting option' for East Anglian farmers
PUBLISHED: 08:34 06 January 2020
Copyright © Matthew THomas 2018
Suffolk and Essex farmers thinking about diversifying might want to think about grape growing, according to a farming expert.
Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE, an organisation which promotes innovation among farmers, said warmer summers were extending the area where grapes can be grown productively in the UK, making it a viable option for some farmers in East Anglia.
Recent research suggests an area in the UK the size of the Champagne region would be profitable for vineyards - extending far beyond the traditional fruit growing regions, she pointed out.
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Agri-TechE (formerly known as Agri-Tech East) is bringing together viticulture experts with enterprising farmers and technologists to discuss emerging agri-tech supporting growth in the sector.
"The improved quality of the product and the benefits it offers for carbon storage and regenerative agriculture are making viticulture an interesting option for growers," she said.
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Chris Roberts, head of robotics and associate director of the Technology Leadership Group at event hosts Cambridge Consultants, said there was a strong desire to focus on sustainable farming against a background of climate change - especially in the UK.
"New technologies and techniques such as precision agriculture and robotics are required to meet these needs," he said. "Contrary to popular belief, I don't think there is a reluctance from farmers to invest in new technology. The concern is more of the risk of it going wrong and the impact on the bottom line.
"The challenge is how to create a viable business model to support its adoption."
Increasing the resilience of vineyards is the focus of Vidacycle, which has developed software to enable more informed decision-making in the vineyard.
Its community lead, Annie Landless - who will also be speaking at the event - said using their tools to look at historical data showed ripening dates had gradually shifted earlier and earlier over the last 20 years.
The Pollinator event 'Nothing to W(h)ine About - Uncorking the Opportunities for Innovation in Viticulture' is at Cambridge Consultants, Cambridge, February 11, from 2pm to 6pm. Register at www.agri-tech-e.co.uk/events.