Training, soil health and technical expertise ‘will be key to future farming success’

Remotely-run farm machinery in action as part of Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions' H

Remotely-run farm machinery in action as part of Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions' Hands Free Hectare harvest, Picture: HARPER ADAMS UNIVERSITY - Credit: Harper Adams University

Farmers will need to up their game in a variety of areas from staff training and soil health to technical expertise to be successful in the future, East Anglia’s agricultural leaders say.

Willingness to embrace technological change, and having access to an investment pot will also be key, they say.

Speaking in the East Anglian Daily Times’ quarterly farming supplement, Rural Review, which comes out as part of the main paper on Saturday, January 27, about the future of farming, farming experts including National Farmers’ Union vice president Guy Smith, Easton and Otley College apprenticeship ambassador Nicola Currie stressed the need for farming to focus more on its ‘human capital’.

“Farming’s track record of staff training is, let’s be honest, mixed,” said Mrs Currie. “It ranges from the fantastic to the non-existent. This is in contrast with the next generation of farmers, many of whom do so much to keep on top of the latest developments.”

Mr Smith said more investment in skills and technology will be needed, backed by ‘decent’ broadband and reliable mobile signals.

“If I had to second-guess what life on the farm might feel like in 10 years’ time I suspect automation and digital-data management will be the key driver of change,” he said. “It will mean the need for more investment in skills and technology with less need for labour on farm.”

Essex farmer Tom Bradshaw, chair of the NFU East Anglia Crops Board, said recent technological advances will be nothing compared to what is in store on farms of the future.

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He envisages robots “riding around the fields in an automated fashion that will be able to identify the difference between the crop and the weed and will be able to destroy the weeds with lasers”, and driverless tractors, currently being pioneered through exercises such as Harper Adams’ ‘Hands-Free Hectare’ project.

“I genuinely believe that the next decade is going to see technological advance like we have never seen before. It will be an incredibly exciting time for young technologists to be involved in agriculture,” he said. “This technology will lead to real advances in how efficiently we are able to produce food with less inputs being used. becoming the norm.”

Agri-Tech East director Belinda Clarke said there would be more emphasis on soil fertility and smart farming in the future.