From robots to virtual fencing – what does the future hold for food and farming in Britain?

Robots, vertical farms and virtual fencing could soon be the farming of the future, according to a new report from the NFU.
calendar icon 18 February 2019
clock icon 4 minute read

The NFU that has taken a leap into the future to explore what the landscape of British food and farming will look like in 20 years.

The Future of Food 2040 report highlights the importance of establishing a future domestic agricultural policy that enables the farming industry to increase its productivity, profitability and resilience in the future, which will be crucial for businesses to thrive in an increasingly volatile world.

Looking beyond Brexit to how the country will evolve socially, technologically and environmentally, the report delves into how changing trends will impact food production; what we’ll be eating, how we’ll be buying it as well as how food will be produced. It poses the question, what impact will this have on British farms and what’s needed to ensure the UK can take full advantage?

Three case studies showcase cutting-edge technologies which are already being developed to revolutionise the way we farm by maximising productivity, data collection, precision and efficiency, all while benefitting the environment.

NFU head of policy services, and author of the report, Dr Andrea Graham said: “This report is a catalyst to encourage us all to start the debate about our food and our future so we can start to plan ahead. It is also a reminder for government, at a critical time in British history, to put domestic food production as a strategic priority in all policy making. This includes a future domestic agricultural policy, which must enable farm businesses to take advantage of the many opportunities that will present themselves over the coming years.

“Farming is a progressive industry which is always looking ahead for new opportunities and developments, and over the next 20 years we will face potentially seismic changes in all aspects of society. An increase in the global population and the need to mitigate against climate change will provide opportunities for British food and farming to increase productivity and reduce its impact on the environment.

“2040 also marks the year that the NFU aims to reach its ambition of net zero agriculture, and increasing productivity and efficiency through innovation is going to be key to achieving this goal.

“Even now there are technologies being developed that can care for crops on a plant-by-plant basis or control the grazing of cattle without physical fences, and by 2040 this type of technology will be commonplace in farming.

“We will also see a significant shift in how businesses are managed as the world evolves and grows increasingly volatile. Risk management and business resilience are going to become ever more important. While 20 years may seem a long way away, planning for that future must start now.

“There are many possibilities for the future of farming, but one thing is certain; food is a fundamental part of life and British farmers will continue to put the public goods – including the provision of safe, quality and affordable home-grown food – at the heart of all they do.”

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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