With the UK investing £3 million to the Global Fertiliser Challenge in an effort to fund new research for alternative fertilisers – Breakthrough Press speaks to sustainable Edinburgh farm, The Free Company
The UK marked itself as a global leader in food productivity, sustainable farming and tackling climate change at the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) Summit, that took place the 9th of May, including investing £3 million to develop more sustainable fertilisers
Attending the summit in Washington D.C., Farming Minister Mark Spencer helped bring over 20 countries together to push global progress on the “Agriculture Breakthrough” initiative.
Agriculture Breakthrough is a collaborative effort, created under the UK’s COP26 Presidency to propel the development of clean technologies and sustainable solutions in the agriculture sector.
Included in this effort is the US-led Global Fertiliser Challenge, which the UK joined with a £3 million investment to develop, test and scale up new and alternative fertilisers that can enhance soil health, agricultural productivity, and the sustainability of agriculture globally.
Farming Minister, Mark Spencer said: “Innovation is key to unlocking a more sustainable, profitable future for our farming and agriculture sectors. It is vital we join together and fund new research to catalyse pioneering solutions that will support farmers around the world to meet the challenges of food security while delivering for our environment.”
Spencer continued in addressing the summit, saying: “We must continue to foster this innovation not only at home but around the world, and I encourage countries to get onboard as we work to generate a real breakthrough for the agri-food sector.
One sustainable farm in the UK, The Free Company, recognises the value of sustainable farming – not just for the environment, but also for the farms themselves.
Breakthrough Press spoke with owner Charlie Buchanan Smith to find out more.
Sustainable Farming in the UK: The Free Company
The Edinburgh-based farm has employed the no-till system as their primary sustainable farming practice. This process requires farmers to never disturb the soil. Free Company owner, Charlie Buchanan-Smith gave Breakthrough Press an insight into how the farm works to the no-till method.
“Soil is an inherently layered living system,” Charlie explained. “It doesn't like to be turned - in the natural world you don't see exposed soil on the surface. When soil becomes exposed, the organic matter in the soil encounters oxygen, which means it becomes oxidised and inviable.”
Kalina Swiatek, a Glasgow-based environmental management student, said: “When you till land, everything that is in it dies. It’s like an antibiotic – it’s not just killing the bad stuff, it’s also killing the good stuff.”
The process of tilling also releases excessive carbon and degrades the soil health, which increases the need for fertilisers. In addition to this, tilling can also cause contaminated run-off. This run-off can then pollute rivers and ponds. Charlie noted that whether they are growing vegetables, or grazing animals on permanent pasture – the Free Company always ensures they are working to this sustainable method.
Image by Eva Mackenzie