Helping farmers move towards regenerative agriculture
Many farmers are keen to introduce regenerative practices on their farm but don’t always know where to start. We spoke to Devon-based farm consultant Jason Hayward-Jones to find out how his RegenFARM system can help.
Interest in regenerative agriculture continues to gather pace, not least because of the new schemes rewarding environmental land management (ELMs). With principles that promote soil health and biodiversity, advocates believe regenerative farming practices help protect the environment. However, farmers looking to adopt a regenerative approach also need to remain profitable, and understand which practices will bring the best returns.
This is where the RegenFARM digital platform can help, says Devon-based farm consultant Jason Hayward-Jones. The idea was to create a digital version of his knowledge of regenerative agriculture in a simple to use and cost-effective system. The result is a software platform which helps farmers transition their system to one which adopts the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture.
Gathering data to provide regenerative options on farm
Acting as a tool to support decision making, the software brings in data from a range of on-farm and external sources, including satellites and drones. It then simulates different scenarios based on changes in practice. This data is integrated with in-depth maps covering field boundaries, water catchments and land topography creating a digital version of the farm.
The tool uses this information to suggest where regenerative farming practices such as agroforestry, techno-grazing, keyline subsoiling and no-till could be most effectively applied. A simple cost-benefit analysis calculates the potential financial benefits to the farm, as well as potential complementary revenue streams in the form of payments for ecosystem services.
“The aim of RegenFARM is to help farmers make the most of their natural assets,” explains Jason. “Modelling these different regenerative agriculture techniques on a digital version of their farm removes some of the risk. We have successfully used the platform to design a 10,000-hectare agroforestry system in Africa, but the tool can also work at a smaller scale, down to just a couple of hectares.”
A tool to help farmers face future challenges
Jason has noticed how quickly Australian farmers have adopted regenerative agriculture practices compared to those in the UK: “This was largely out of necessity due to the immediate threats they faced from climate change. As UK farmers start to face their own challenges, we wanted to develop a tool which could help them explore potential solutions.
“By having the opportunity to explore how different scenarios can affect both the farm and business, we are hoping to make the transition towards regenerative agriculture principles simpler. Overall, we hope it will help farmers develop more resilient businesses which are able to meet the challenges we’re facing.”
Jason also believes RegenFARM can help farmers make the most of ELMS and other schemes which reward farmers for regenerating natural capital. “The hurdles farmers have to overcome to benefit from ELMS are high,” he explains. “For many, the projects undertaken as part of the scheme need continual monitoring and adaption to gain the most from them in years to come. The RegenFARM platform can take this workload away from farmers while they concentrate on doing what they do best; growing healthy nutritious food.”
Farmers are currently seeing the biggest changes in agriculture for more than 50 years. As a mutual insurer, we’ve stood by South West farmers since 1903 and through our Future Farming Programme, we are helping our Members and the wider farming community navigate the changes ahead in this transformative time.Future Farming Programme