All posts by Graeme Rose

Green Table – discussion on Agri-robotics

Just as the tractor revolutionised farming in the last century, a new generation of technologies are currently revolutionising farming. Tech developments are out there looking to displace the labour-intensive activities.

Retail cannot look too far into the future. they think short-medium term. The food service market thinks in 6-month cycles and “doesn’t like technology”. It is inherently resistant to change.

New foods not yet discussed. Renewable energy concerns impact on choices. Non-food crops will potentially increase at a time when we will need more domestic food. But the government is clearly not interested in addressing this. It is starting at a low base now, but it’s importance as a movement will increase. Whether it impacts in the medium term we will have to see.

Changing patterns of taste / cultural shift? Difficult to imagine big shifts in UK in the foreseeable.

How can Govt. redirect payments into environmentally-oriented projects (water, flood management, etc.)? We can not afford the shift away from food production.

Golf course or housing developments (diversification) have financial incentives for struggling farmers but that reduces the domestic food production. If you are doing environmental management against food production the incentives are way below what is possible to keep a business going.

We are used to having all food all year round. But if costs of producing are too severe will we return to more seasonal consumption? Difficult to imagine that happening.

Increase of middle classes in India and China will put pressures on global markets. Desire for fancier imported goods. There is a growing appetite and market in developing world.

Worrying and destabilising prospects for UK suppliers.

A woman at a presentation screen - Helen Ferrier Horizon Scanning

Helen Ferrier of the NFU


Dr. Helen Ferrier – 6 – 12 years outlook

A woman at a presentation screen - Helen Ferrier Horizon Scanning

Helen Ferrier of the NFU

Observations from the NFU policy unit perspective:

Farming production has different decision making cycles;

Thinking is for as long for as people will be farmers….

eg. Arable has 5-6 year rotations of cereals or veg. In livestock the breeding cycles for herds may be long; shorter for poultry 72 weeks for a laying hen. Annual cycles around protected cropping.

How do we represent that huge variation? Vast majority of farmers cannot plan for 6-12 years. Brett has accelerated some changes and leads to uncertainty. Farmers instead get heads down and work on what needs to be done this year.

Scale can help; big businesses lead to longer term thinking and some farmers thinking of innovation.

Succession is an issue. Who will continue the farm? Legacy.

Shifting land use / diversification helps to spread the risk, investing in new kit.

NFU survey asks farmers about confidence. Current 3-year outlook has noticed negative impact on confidence.

Tech people are looking at farming and opportunities for new applications in farming; understanding soils (moisture alerts, etc.) or understanding what is happening with condition of your livestock. Market revenue for agri robots with rise hugely, not just in crop sector but milking and husbandry.

Labour saving potential of robotics will be significant. This may have impact in women in farming; change the perception of farming.

Data sets and how these can be used / analysed to help farmers make decisions. Other areas becoming challenging will be crop protection. More integrated approach – bio-stimulants and crop control. Integrated approach to these issues.

Consolidation is happening. Acing population f farmers. Shift away from support to creation of new markets for goods and services.

Volatility  must be managed. Financial risk management tools / insurance models to smooth out the volatility.

Data will enable greater transparity in the future.

Red Table – 3 to 5 year horizon discussion.

Pressure will be on the consumer, and hard to keep track of all the variables.

Organisations stripping out the costs. Big brands continue to grow. Home delivery makes it cheaper, these are changing the landscape for the consumer.

China and elsewhere have access to the same products.

Middle classes don’t want to take the risk any more . Global demand in the long-term… 50% of food is currently imported. People are naive about the supply chain. Truth is we can’t grow it.

Eg. Carrot cake ingredients can be traced back to 14 different countries. How can we keep track.There will not be investment in food tech. It will be about changing trade patterns. e.g.. food from US. they will want to get into EU. Agri in US is lean and mean – always looking for new markets.

Looking for non-destructive testing mechanisms. In Holland equip can recover and decrease waste / increase yokels. At current labour costs that is unsustainable. Automation for sorting products for defects. Cost-saving automation, robot lines which competitors are looking to take risks now in investment in order to reduce costs in the medium -long term.

Venture capitalists but no new entrants.

Drivers forcing UK producers to greater efficiency.

Does this make UK vulnerable to food terrorism and global pressures. Supply chains are vulnerable. Supply chains won’t submit to bullying. Need to look after the suppliers – building relationships. If they are abused they will walk.

Corruption on  a systemic global scale in certain regions threatens the global security.

Having to think globally now, not nationally….

If you shop seasonally that’s a cheaper way of managing the budget. We are used to buying what we want when we want it – at a decent price. If not at shop A they’ll go to shop B

With turnover of staff at present who is going to provide stability to organisations.

Low-cost is the driver, but variable sized products is discouraged

Horizon Scanning: Three horizons taking us all the way to 2050 for #foodfuturess

Mapping The Three Horizons.

Jon Miller invites participants to contribute to a Horizon Scanning exercise, prior to the first speaker…. This will be added to at the end of the discussion sessions.

Thinking of your role/organisation;

  1. What is your biggest challenge?
  2. The biggest Future Risk?
  3. Greatest Opportunity?

Horizon Scanning: short-term, 3 – 5 years (i.e. 2021-2024)


Biggest Challenge: BREXIT  /

Impact of Brexit on Employment skills and currency /

Political uncertainty /

Lack of current investment for the impact of global threats in 2030 /

Currency Fluctuations /

Finding People willing to work in the Food Industry /

Opportunity: growing customer interest in quality products /

Changing consumer preferences /

Greatest Opportunity ; Technological innovations /

Horizon Scanning: mid-term 6 – 12 years ( > 2030)

Free movement of goods around the world /

Growing population /

Climate Change /

Changing patterns of consumption /Popu;action pressures and resource depletion

Horizon Scanning:  long-term (2030-2050)

Biggest challenge: Fresh Water /

Opportunity: New markets for renewable energy and environmental goods and services /

Risk: Govt. “Healthy Living” Legislation

Biggest Risk: WWIII becomes the fight for water

Nutrition and public health

Food poverty, food insecurity

Food safety and integrity

Urban food growing

Food and the city economy

Global food security

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