Tools not Toys

“Technology needs to be marketed as a tool rather than a toy if it’s to be widely adopted,” said delegate Craig Patrick, from Precision Decisions, at BBSRC’s first ever innovation hub, one of the fringe events at this year’s Oxford Farming Conference. “The Innovation Hub has been so interesting and you take much more away than if you were listening to presentation after presentation. It’s great to talk to the experts directly. The in-field technology such as the precision data for animal health from Nottingham University and the black grass testing from Newcastle University is really interesting and what is probably the most likely to be adopted by farmers. Through my work I see farmers every day up and down the country, and I think it’s all about the marketing, and they need to see that these are valuable tools that can improve their businesses rather than extravagant toys.”

Leading investor in bioscience research, infrastructure and training, BBSRC launched its first-ever Innovation Hub at this year’s Oxford Farming Conference.  The new format, which included a presentation introducing the technology followed by the opportunity to circulate information stands and talk directly with the experts proved a successful formula, was designed to engage frontline innovative farmers with the technologies available in agriculture in a more interactive way. It drew a full and enthusiastic crowd, and there was a noisy buzz of information exchange both from the experts who had stands and between delegates networking.

Professor Melanie Welham, Chief Executive of BBSRC, explained “We have created the innovation hub format in order to raise awareness of bioscience and new technologies, and the impact they can have on farming, in a more engaging way. Climate and economics are constantly changing. We can’t just keep on growing more food, we need to use technology to progress, and the Oxford Farming Conference is a great place to capture the first innovators and take this technology forward. The noise in here I think says it all, and it’s great to see so many people talking both with each other and surrounding the stalls talking with the experts”.

Delegates could speak to research specialists on animal nutrition and health, sustainable agricultural systems, food safety and nutrition, and exploiting genomics. Felix Hollman, who travelled from Germany as a DLG scholar, said:

“You know that this technology and research has been selected to be here, which immediately gives it credibility. I have found the networking the most valuable, the discussion around the topic and hearing often similar view points from people working in very different markets.”

Freddie Reed, from Agri-Epi, who hosted one of the information stands, said “It’s been a wonderful opportunity to be speaking directly to a farmer audience, as much of our work is via agribusiness. It’s worked really well, and I look forward to working with some of the people I have spoken to today”.

OFC Director Tom Allen-Stevens was very pleased with the turn out, saying that many of the people there were “exactly the ones who would take this research and technology forward”.


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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.