We’re tremendously excited by the publication of our latest report, AgroEcoTech: How can Technology Accelerate a Transition to Agroecology, which we produced for the Soil Association. Following the recent publication of the National Food Strategy, the report examines how technology such as robotics, cultured meat, remote sensing and genome editing can support a shift towards more diverse and sustainable food systems. It further explores how these technologies can play a role in creating systems that nurture and utilise natural processes to remain productive.
The report identifies the risks associated with burgeoning technologies and particularly those that could lock farmers into environmentally, socially and economically detrimental practises. It concludes by presenting recommendations for how decision makers can influence the application of technologies to avoid unsustainable intensification and enhance a transition to agroecology.
In the foreword to the report, the Soil Association states; “It is clearer than ever from the findings of this research that few technologies are inherently ‘good’ or ‘evil’. It is how they are developed and used that matters. Technologies can and will accelerate the transition to agroecology that we so urgently need, but only if we get the governance right.”
The report’s authors argue that agroecological systems have not been well served by the application of labour reducing technologies. Helen Browning, Group CEO of the Soil Association, says; “We have ripped out hedgerows and compacted our soil with heavy machinery to make farming work for tech. Now we need to make tech work for farming”.
It is obvious that there is a pressing need to realign technologies to work with diverse, sustainable food systems instead of suppressing them and this report aims to stimulate a discussion around how this could be achieved. George Chanarin of Cumulus Consultants, said; “This report reveals the need to work collaboratively and inclusively to define and communicate the future farming systems we want to work towards. Only then can we design and develop the technologies needed to make those systems a reality”.