Future farm trends that will define the British agricultural industry

What might farms of the future look like? Farmers Guardian asked three key experts.

Prof Tim Benton Director of energy, environment and resources, Chatham House

The next 25-30 years will have to see fundamental changes in the global food system if humankind is to survive.

A cheap food policy over the last 70 years has led to soil loss and lower air and water quality, as well as poor diets and food waste.

The pressure of such a policy on the environment and on healthcare budgets will mean change will be unavoidable and we may reach that tipping point when change is essential very soon.

For the UK, this will mean the need for more diverse farming systems, integrating livestock and crop systems with a focus on reducing climate footprints and improving nutritional quality of food.

This might not necessarily be done on an individual farm basis, but collectively where groups of farmers share resources and market a range of products together.


These systems are already emerging, including a group of Yorkshire farmers I am working with which shares forage, manure and market products to food markets locally and nationally.

Farming in the UK may be only worth £10 billion a year, but it is the bedrock of an essential £200bn food industry and it has the opportunity to make the changes which will benefit us all.

Graham Redman Partner at the Andersons Centre and Editor of The John Nix Pocketbook

The next 30 years could see the biggest revolution in British agriculture since the enclosures in the 1700s.

Within that time-frame, the technique of using biotech to produce proteins will have been perfected and widely used.

It could mean a massive reduction in demand for livestock and dairy products and impact arable farmers who produce grain for animal feed.

As farmers increasingly think as land-based entrepreneurs, a whole range of new opportunities will arise.

Improved carbon management tools and Government carbon reduction targets will mean carbon sequestration will be a major income stream, while the social and environmental services farming can offer will be recognised.

New management skills and techniques will be needed in this new agricultural revolution.

There will still be small family farms with day-to-day operations which are governed by seasonal routines, but they will have to respond to new opportunities and techniques if they are to thrive.

Farmers who take a ‘business as usual’ approach to farming may find it difficult to survive over the coming decades, but there is a bright future for those who anticipate and embrace change.

Dr Tina Barsby Chief Executive, NIAB

Climate change is likely to the main driver for how farmers farm over the next 30 years. The UK could be able to grow crops such as soya, which would be a good addition to the rotation.

There is also likely to be a diversity of cereal crops which are tailored to specific regions.

Genetic engineering will have moved on considerably and, if it is able to be used, will be able to deliver a range of benefits, such as enhanced nutrition, carbon capture and yields.

Farmers will want to keep their land cropped at all times to maximise its productive and carbon potential, as well as protect soils.

New and cheaper technology will allow a much greater understanding of plants, individual fields and soil, allowing farmers to prevent problems before they occur. Many of these new systems will be with us in the next five to 10 years.


Climate change may present enormous challenges, but with the right regulatory support and market incentives, scientists and farmers will be able to respond to those challenges in very creative ways.

This may require some initial investment and incentives from Government to kickstart new systems, but once they are up and running they should be self supportive.

Source: Farmers Guardian

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