Food for thought at the Royal Norfolk Show

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Food is to be enjoyed, shared and valued and this year’s Royal Norfolk Show will be creating a strong link between food, farming and the countryside, according the recently appointed Show and Programmes Director Mark Nicholas.

He says: “There’s a lot to be really proud about: it is the UK’s largest two day agricultural show, it showcases the innovation of the region and it is a great tribute to what a good country show is all about.

Mark Nicholas, RNAA“Too much of our information these days comes from the virtual world and here we can offer an experience that is real and memorable.”

It is vital that the show is relevant and reflects current interests. To achieve this Mark has spent time talking to the various stakeholders and creating a vision for the show that reflects the role of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) as part of the fabric of Norfolk.

He says: “We have a strong membership base of 3500 people, directly connected to farming so the agricultural components have got to have substance. The ‘innovation and enterprise’ theme reflects this.

“There will be 700 businesses trading here at the show, and a significant number of them are state-of-the-art agricultural machinery suppliers, with equipment worth millions of pounds.

“At the Innovation Hub, hosted by Agri-Tech East and supported by BBRO (British Beet Research Organisation), we are demonstrating how science and emerging technologies are addressing the big challenge of how to do more with less.

“This is particularly true for those farming in some of Norfolk’s environmentally sensitive locations, with a fragile ecosystem, decreasing soil and uncertain water supplies.”

Big Data applications for agriculture

“Improved data about all aspects of the environment is making it easier to measure the impacts of different cultivation techniques; particularly how to close the gap between potential and actual yields. We have experts in soil, water, canopy cover and data analysis on hand to demonstrate some of the latest techniques that are currently being trialled.”

Alongside that is the need to make the industry accessible and entertaining to as many visitors as possible. The show is doing this within the ‘food, farming and the countryside’ theme, where there are displays that encourage visitors to look at the bigger picture and to understand that farmed land has many purposes.potato yield model

Mark continues: “A particular highlight is the Broads Village that marks the creation of a new national park last year. It will bring to life the industries associated with the Broads. Particularly how sustainable approaches to agriculture are balancing the demands for leisure activities, wildlife, food production and clean water.

“To encourage the involvement of younger people, we have the Discovery Zone and expect 10,000 children to visit. All sorts of people are coming in to demonstrate and entertain.”

Celebrating food micro businesses

The celebration element is captured in the ‘arts’ theme, which provides a platform for the lively Norfolk arts scene and the food hall, which offers a selection of Norfolk’s finest produce.

“There are over 20 bands performing over the two days and the closing ceremony will include a 1,000 strong choir. Singers from community, church and school choirs have been practicing a specially composed piece for the finale. “Norfolk Show showcase local producers

The food hall features 80 Norfolk food and drink producers. Mark was keen that as many of the micro-businesses were represented as possible.

“We have been grateful for the support of HSBC which has subsidised the cost of attendance and as a result we have an exciting selection of start-up businesses in the food hall.”

Ideas Factory designed map

As always the grand ring is one of the crown jewels of the Show, it’s a great arena for showing and demonstrating. In terms of entertaining the main act is the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery who will be performing on both days of the Show for their only performance outside of London this year.

With too much to do in a single day, visitors are being helped to prepare with a programme that will be distributed within the Eastern Daily Press on Friday 16 June. It includes a map designed by students at the Norwich University of the Arts Ideas Factory. “It is a fantastic map that brings the show to life and illustrates in a succinct way the three themes,” says Mark.

The RNAA has put a lot of effort into designing a show for Norfolk to be proud of.

As Mark concludes: “We are saying to people: ‘it’s your show; come and display, exhibit, explain, entertain and most of all enjoy’. It promises to be the best day out for everyone.”

More information about the Innovation Hub can be found here.

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