Today we’re at Countryfile Live, along with hundreds of other farmers, land managers and conservation organisations who all share our vision for a healthy, beautiful and productive natural environment. Along with the Nature Friendly Farming Network, that we’re a member of, the Small Robot Company will join us in the National Trust area. Here, we share more on why we’re working in partnership with SRC on innovative ways to transform how we farm.
At the National Trust delivering our ambitions to restore a healthy and beautiful natural environment means thinking about how we can change the way we farm. Farmers have long been incentivised to intensify their production methods, but this has come at the cost of tumbling populations of birds and pollinators, dirtier water and eroding soils. As the UK leaves the EU, we’ve been vocal about how we think a new farming system can turn things around and deliver both the high quality food this nation needs and restore the natural environment that so relies upon.
The Government shares our ambition to transform the farming sector, and is designing a new system that uses public money to reward farmers for their key role in providing environmental benefits.
Many farms have become dependent on artificial inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics) to maintain fertility or to promote yields, and they are becoming increasingly expensive and limited in effectiveness.
One of the ways that farmers have intensified production is the use of heavy machinery and vehicles. This is compacting and wearing away our soils. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that, globally, the state of our soils (including in the UK) is such that there may be only enough productive capacity in the soils for another 60 harvests without urgent action to restore them.
So the National Trust has partnered with the Small Robot Company (SRC) and joined their Farmer Advisory Group. The SRC is designing small, automated robots that can replace big tractors on farms. Big tractors are effective but inefficient (currently, 95% of energy is used ploughing) and environmentally damaging; ploughing is only necessary because the use of heavy machinery compacts the soil.
The SRC are building robots that will seed and care for each individual plant in a crop. They will only feed and spray the plants that need it, giving them the perfect levels nutrients and support, with no waste. By being smaller and lighter they cause less damage to the soil and the level of detail and precision allows them to be kinder to soil, plants, wildlife and the environment. For farmers the increased efficiency has the potential to increase yields, and reduce input costs and so hopefully increase profits.
Find out more about the Small Robot Company on their website: https://www.smallrobotcompany.com/