Soil, the material that most days, we walk on, wash off our hands and avoid getting on our clothes seems to most people un-important, but soil is what keeps us all alive. It is the living medium in which we grow 90% of our food, it contains more organisms in one teaspoon than there are people on our planet, it stores water and carbon, and is critical to regulating our climate. According to the ELD initiative report in 2015, soil health is also a critical component of the global economy, with economic losses of USD $10.6 trillion globally due to declining soil conditions worldwide.
As a global community we must reverse the degradation of our soils and work towards sustainably managed farming systems that promote soil and environmental health. But, what do farmers and agri businesses need to do to improve their soils? The complexity of soils and the farming systems that the soil supports means that every farm, every field is slightly different. Socio-economic pressures and our increasingly ever unpredictable climate are additional challenges.
Having spent my life living and working in the farming and agri-food industry, I understand the challenges that every farmer faces trying to do the right thing for the environment, with limited information, and while balancing the economic pressures of running a business. Farming practices have continuously evolved, and must continue to change in the future to ensure food security for an ever increasing population in a changing climate.
This is where Soil-for-life® comes in. Soil-for-life® is focussed on helping farmers and their agronomists develop sustainable, whole farm soil and crop management systems that work to improve crop performance whilst driving improvements in soil and environmental health. Research undertaken globally demonstrates that healthy, resilient soils, support higher and better quality crop yields, reduce the risk of crop diseases, reduce irrigation and fertiliser requirements, and reduce fuel costs associated with soil tillage. Taken together, enhanced soil management practices will drive growth in farm profits and sustainable improvements to farming that reduce the impact of farming on the environment.
We are going to drive this paradigm shift in global agriculture by pulling in vast quantities of existing and emerging data from these agri-businesses, combine it with agri-environmental datasets and with dedicated agri-informatics, soil science and agronomy knowledge unlock the unknown unknowns, allowing us to identify cause and effect and support global agriculture in a way not currently possible. This will translate to real-world actions that farmers and agronomists can use to improve their soil and crop management methods. What’s more, as our customer base grows, so will the functionality and predictive power of the platform.
Soil-for-life® is the product of scientific and agri-informatic expertise at Cranfield University in conjunction with farming and business knowledge from Produce World. Its innovative approach and transformational potential has been recognised and supported by both Innovate UK and BBRSC.
We are currently seeking a further round of investment to bring the Soil-for-Life® platform to market. I am honoured to be able to present at Cleanequity Monaco on 10th March, the KTN workshop on soil health on 14th March in Sheffield and Cleantech Innovate on April 27th in London. It is an exciting time talking to farmers, scientists and investors and I am enthusiastic about the future.