What to expect at GYS Innovation Zone – Dr Dave George

In this latest blog post, Dr Dave George, Chair of the Farmer Scientist Network at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society writes about what’s to come at the Great Yorkshire Show’s Innovation Zone on Tuesday 9 – Friday 12 July 2024.

As I noted when accepting the position of Farmer Scientist Network Chair, ‘there is a realisation across the board that we cannot address the sustainability challenges we are all facing without working with the farming sector’.

Nor must we forget that we need our farmers to farm to put food on our tables, and that this is an extremely challenging time to do so.

With more mouths to feed, climate change and the end of the Basic Payment Scheme looming large, we must look for ways to efficiently and effectively produce nutritious food alongside natural capital gains that will aid progression to net-zero and address biodiversity declines.

All far easier said than done, especially against a backdrop of rising running costs and around nine months of the worst weather I’ve ever seen!

Whilst we can’t control how much it rains, innovation in the agricultural sector can help in overcoming other challenges, and much of this will be on show in the Farmer Scientist Network-led Innovation Zone at the 165th Great Yorkshire Show in July (Tuesday 9th – Friday 12th).

In only its second year, the organising committee have been flooded with bookings for exhibition space in the Innovation Zone and have expanded 2023’s successful Innovation Award to include three prize categories and a separate award for innovation by small businesses.

This is bound to ensure that there’s something on show to excite and inspire everyone in 2024, from the return of ‘Soil Doctor’ where you can bring in a soil sample from your farm for a soil health check, to drones that can seed and spray crops, and a tractor that runs on methane.

Important opportunity to connect farmers with innovators

Whilst such innovations are of course welcome, the existence of new technology and knowledge does not necessarily ensure it is widely adopted.

For this to occur we need to not only develop solutions and new ideas, but to talk to end-users – farmers – to encourage their uptake.

Such conversations can also help to further refine innovations and identify gaps that remain for further development to fill.

The Innovation Zone hits the mark here too, hosting seminars and panel discussions across the Show’s four days to delve deeper into key topics and explore how innovators and sector leaders are supporting the future of farming.

The speaker’s stage in the Innovation Zone will be especially busy, with both ‘Tea and Tech’ and ‘Pie and Policy’ sessions running in the mornings and afternoons of each show day, starting at 11.15am and 2pm, and with additional talks and activities earlier and later in the day.

The ‘Tea and Tech’ programme will kick off with an update on a new cover crops guide on the Tuesday, followed by sessions through the week on robotics and automation, farm fuel efficiency and regenerative agriculture.

Each session is designed to provide advice, guidance and best-practice tools to help farm businesses engage with existing and emerging approaches to land, crop, energy and business management.

Introducing our ‘Pie & Policy’ programme

‘Pie and Policy’ is new for 2024, and timely given recent Sustainable Farming Incentive updates and an impending election.

As such, the sessions promise to generate lively discussion, and include an interactive debate on ‘shaking up sustainable farming’ on the Tuesday, a Women In Farming Innovation Hour panel debate on Wednesday, and talks on ‘cropping’ renewable energy on Thursday and Yorkshire’s new Grain Alliance on Friday.

If you’re visiting the Great Yorkshire Show, we hope to see you in the Innovation Zone, and I’d encourage you to attend a ‘Tea and Tech’ or ‘Pie and Policy’ slot if you can.

As the titles of these sessions suggest, you’ll be left not only well-informed, but also well fed and watered!

Please note: To attend talks at the Innovation Zone, either a valid show ticket or YAS membership is required to gain admission to the Great Yorkshire Showground.

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