Environment Systems Awarded Major Industrial Research Project Under the Government’s Farming Innovation Programme
Environment Systems in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and the Soil Association has been awarded a major two-year industrial research project under the Government’s Farming Innovation Programme (FIP). FIP is part of Defra’s investment in innovation, research and development that sets out to transform productivity, enhance environmental sustainability and meet net zero goals. The project, Pasture Optimisation for Resilience and Livelihoods (PASTORAL) which is funded by Innovate UK will combine satellite data with advanced algorithms, to deliver weekly intelligence on grass biomass and carbon budgets through a co-designed platform that will increase farm productivity and carbon efficiency.
Quality, productive pasture is essential for efficient livestock production. Currently farmers walk their fields with a rising plate meter to assess grass biomass available for livestock grazing. This approach does not accurately reflect field quality, nor likely future growth under climate change, limiting accuracy of pasture management decisions. The PASTORAL service will be co-designed with livestock farmers split equally between beef, dairy and lamb producers across England, with service testing, development and demonstration across organic, regenerative agriculture and conventional farming systems.
Farmers face the growing threat of climate change, which reduces grassland productivity, and need to demonstrate carbon reduction to satisfy government net zero policy and the supply chain’s growing need to demonstrate environmental credentials. Gaps in existing farm diagnostics make it difficult for farmers to accurately manage pasture or measure carbon stocks and sequestration. PASTORAL will revolutionise pasture management by providing farmers with near real-time information on pasture productivity including grass biomass, its consumption and growth rate, plus tools to optimise herd and flock distribution and the ability to measure soil carbon resources.
PASTORAL will be led by Environment Systems whose established environmental and agricultural consultancy and data services provide solutions for land management, monitoring and policy for ecosystems and natural capital evaluation. The University of Edinburgh will provide pasture modelling to help in the creation of field biomass and carbon analytics suitable for delivery to farmers. The Soil Association will facilitate farmer engagement for co-creation activities including workshops and feedback sessions. A steering group will be assembled to provide strategic oversight and input into the programme. Confirmed members include representatives from Mole Valley Farmers, Waitrose & Partners, Dalehead, Dovecote Park and WD Farmers.