Arla Foods has announced a new partnership with the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) which will see the launch of a tailored environment planner app for its dairy farmers.
Through the collaboration, Arla UK farmers are trialling a customised version of the UKCEH’s recently-launched Environmental Planner (E-Planner) tool.
The move will enable farmers to make science-based decisions on which agri-environment options to introduce on their land, as well as identify where sustainability initiatives are likely to perform best.
The free web-based tool is able to analyse satellite imagery and environmental datasets for selected Arla farms, assessing the suitability of unproductive or hard-to-farm areas of land.
With the app, farmers will be given a snapshot overview of each field and shown where to plant more flower-rich pollinator habitats, create woodland, protect water resources and sow winter bird food.
The E-Planner also assesses the suitability of land for wet grassland restoration and grassland productivity.
“The E-Planner tool is really helping to modernise the way we make management decisions for land that might have been previously considered unproductive in terms of sustainability and resilience,” said David Christensen, one of Arla’s farmer owners testing the technology.
He added: “At the click of a button, we’re able to look at how the land behaves over time and can therefore make more educated decisions on how best to use all areas of the farm at key times of the year.”
In testing and adapting UKCEH’s tool for dairy farmers, Arla says the challenges specific to dairy farming and field management can be addressed.
Graham Wilkinson, agricultural director at Arla Foods, said: “Farmers simply can’t be expected to automatically know which environmental measures best suit the land around them. With environmental measures on farm compulsory for all of Arla’s dairy farmers, we hope that in working with the scientists at UKCEH we can ensure that they have access to the tools and resources that enable the best decisions.”
John Redhead, senior spatial ecologist at UKCEH, who led the development of the E-Planner tool, added: “Historically, it’s always been a challenge to bring together environmental information from digital data and farmer-specific local knowledge. The great thing about the E-Planner tool is its ability to present complex and detailed environmental information in a way that’s easy for farmers to access and explore, enabling them to make the best possible decisions.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019