“The discussion at the end was particularly interesting – being able to put across all of our issues in the industry to the scientists themselves.”
This was a comment from one Norfolk Young Farmer following our Young Innovators’ Forum (YIF), a programme designed to bring together early stage career scientists and farmers, to help them better understand each other’s drivers, challenges and opportunities for working together.
We are delighted to welcome The Morley Agricultural Foundation (TMAF) as the sponsor of this unique programme.
White coats and welly boots
So far, our YIF events have seen young farmers and scientists exchange views about yellow rust on barley (and why some scientists work on laboratory isolates of the pathogen, not random samples taken from the field), inspected laboratory robots in action, seen pollinating insects in controlled conditions in a glasshouse, marvelled at huge pipes of living algae, and watched real-time gene sequencing.
The scientists have been treated to a first-hand experience of a dairy farm, and the groups will be getting together to talk tomatoes at Cornerways Nursery and seed breeding of cereals and oil seed rape at KWS.
TMAF is the perfect partner to support the YIF initiative. As a charity which hosts and facilitates agricultural research and education – much of it on its own farm – the aim of promoting cross-talk between scientists and growers is totally aligned to its own charitable objectives.
The charity funds PhD students, research trials and lots of activities helping promote food and farming education. It also has a commercial farm – Morley Farms Ltd based in Norfolk and hosts field trials for NIAB and the John Innes Centre, as well as commercial trials for companies such as Agrovista.
The original concept of YIF was built on studies showing that scientists are among the most trusted sources of information for farmers about new agricultural innovations, but that farmers welcome more opportunities to interact with scientists, have input into the research process and to understand what research is being undertaken.
Meeting of minds
In some cases, a gulf exists between the research and producer communities, particularly in terms of vocabulary, culture and understanding each others’ motivations and issues. Through YIF, TMAF and Agri-Tech East are working with the Young Farmers’ Clubs in the region and PhD students in the research organisations to tackle this among the promising young leaders of the future.
Lubricated, no doubt, by copious amounts of pizza and drinks, we’ve had some great comments so far from both the young farmers and the young scientists.
“Great to see the work of the scientists and to bring the farmers and researchers together for a joint discussion”
“Science will change agriculture, suppliers/farmers need to work with scientists”
“Some kit is too expensive for individual farms…..but research centres will do it for you/a number of local farms for mutual benefit”
“I’ve never been in a lab like this before…it was kind of what I expected, but we didn’t expect to see robots”
“Science can help farmers target what they do, kit must be tested in the field though – we scientists need to visit farms!”
Over time, YIF will build a cohort of committed young agri-tech professionals, with a strong relevant network and an ability to build innovation-based partnerships and communicate effectively outside their own discipline / sector.
We’re delighted with the support of TMAF and will be formally launching the relationship at Cereals 2016, in partnership with the John Innes Centre, where we’ll be showcasing new innovations from both the farmer / grower and researcher / scientist perspectives.
Watch this space!