Tom MacMillan, the Soil Association’s Head of Innovation has written a blog for the UK research councils’ Food Security website where he profiles the Association’s Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme, which it is running in partnership with the Organic Research Centre and supported by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.
The Duchy Originals Future Farming programme has been set up to support innovation in sustainable agriculture. Its goal is to enable British farmers to identify and adopt practices that improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way. The programme will involve farmers across the country in developing innovative techniques aimed at improving yields and nutritional performance in organic and low-input agriculture. At the heart of this activity will be a network of on-farm events called Field Labs (analogous to the Farmer Field School concept), led by farmers and growers, where they can share their know-how, design field experiments and pinpoint practical challenges. These will shape the priorities for a new research fund, which will target key barriers to sustainable farming and food systems. The programme will focus on ecological farming, especially approaches that reduce farmers’ reliance on external inputs. However, while it is particularly relevant to organic producers, the programme is open to all.
The Programme will also be inviting researchers to submit proposals eligible for up to £25,000 per project, aimed at addressing problems that producers have specifically said they want tackled, that can be addressed in partnership with farmers and that can be worked up into larger research projects. The first round has now closed but there will be others in due course.