On the evening of Wednesday 25th January, the Kent County Agricultural Society drew 130 visitors to its second Kent Farming Conference entitled ‘The Future of Farming’.
Taking place at the Kent Showground in Detling, farmers, growers, agriculturalists, and industry experts gathered to hear from a panel of guest speakers, delving into developments in technology, crop research, conservation, diversification, and what lies ahead for the next generation.
Hosted by the Society’s president, William Boscawen, keynote speakers included Jake Fiennes, Mario Caccamo, Abigail Brightwell, David Wolfe, Rowan Duckworth and Nick Evans, who shared insights gained through their own experiences and research. “We were pleased to see such an increased turnout for the Conference” says Nikki Dorkings, the Society’s General Manager. “It is a clear result of the need for this type of event, and it was great to see people so engaged with the topics being discussed”.
Jake Fiennes, General Manager at Holkham Estate in Norfolk, and publisher of the book ‘Land Healer’, spoke about the importance of hedgerows, hay meadows and a sympathetic appreciation of soil quality is to Holkham estate and the future of farming. Speaking the evening before the six new standards were added to the SFI scheme for 2023, Jake emphasised how his approach had nature at its heart whilst also being financially viable.
Professor Mario Caccamo opened his presentation with a sobering statistic, that on 15th November 2022 the world’s population reached 8 billion people. The PRB forecast predicts that by 2050 the worlds population will have almost reached 10 billion, an increase of 31% in just 33 years. With ever increasing mouths to feed, food production must undergo a transformation of being ecological while raising output. NIAB are among one of the companies leading research in crop production and genome editing – understanding crop variety, and using physiology, soil science, precision agronomy data science to improve the yield and resilience of crops.
Abigail Brightwell and Lee May from headline sponsors, Brachers, delivered an engaging presentation on changing employment law, from right to work, holiday and contracts.
Another pioneering individual in the field, David Wolfe, has taken over his parent’s legacy at Wakelyns Farm, finalists in the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2022. Originally an agroforestry ‘experiment’ David spoke of his unique business model which generates multiple income streams from a community of businesses based around produce from the farm. From a bakery, to vegetable boxes, and growing hemp for artistic projects, David sees the farm as not just tackling biodiversity and productivity, but as a social project helping to engage the local community and get people into employment.
Rowan Duckworth representing start-up, Small Robot Company, demonstrated their innovations in technology to create ‘Tom’, a modular robotic platform that autonomously monitor and treat each crop with high precision – gathering lots of interest from the audience. Finally, visitors heard from co-founder of Oxbury Bank, Nick Evans, who are the only carbon neutral bank exclusively dedicated to serving British farmers, delivering farm credit, loans, food chain finance and asset finance.
The evening concluded with a lively Q&A session, where a lot of focus was diverted to education, particularly of the general public on where food comes from, how we can reduce food wastage, and how we can inspire the next generation.
Jan Lorraine, Vice-Chair said, “With the new year comes new opportunities, and we hope our guests left the event feeling inspired and reinvigorated with ideas. It is our hope, that as the Kent Farming Conference continues to grow, it becomes a valuable resource to the farming community and those working alongside it, as well as the next generation of agricultural students”.
“We would like to thank all the speakers for sharing their time and knowledge, as well as our sponsors, with particular thanks to headline sponsor Brachers, whose support has been instrumental in helping us run the event”. The next Kent Farming Conference will be held on Wednesday 24th January 2024.