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Morrisons, alongside McDonald’s UK, the NFU and Harper Adams University have partnered to launch what they are describing as the UK’s first school for sustainable farming.

Designed to encourage new farming methods to help British agriculture achieve its net zero goal, the School of Sustainable Food and Farming’s courses would seek to “introduce regenerative methods of farming – for livestock, soil health and biodiversity – to help produce the nation’s food in an even more sustainable and climate-friendly way”, Morrisons said.

Based on a combination of workshops, virtual learning and practical on-farm teaching by university tutors and industry experts, the school would cater to “thousands of students”, it added, and would target undergraduates as well as the current workforce – offering upskilling through short courses and apprenticeships.

The school also promised to offer applied research – delivered through real-world activity as Harper Adams’ university farm transitioned to net zero, alongside knowledge exchange and policy engagement.

Available courses will include topics such as carbon sequestration and the potential of green energy production on farms – including anaerobic digestion plants and understanding the value of carbon.

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With UK agricultural production currently responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, “a transformation is needed globally to boost sustainable food production and ensure we can continue to feed a growing population while doing our bit for the planet”, said NFU president Minette Batters.

“In Britain, farmers have an ambition to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and the School of Sustainable Food and Farming will help us get there. It will help our farmers – both established and new – take on the role of world leaders in climate-friendly food production, paving the way for farming across the world in a sustainable and beneficial way,” she added.

“We need to revolutionise our food production and what we’re doing today is unique,” said Morrisons head of agriculture Sophie Throup.

“It’s the first time the NFU, restaurants, supermarkets and universities have come together to act with one voice for the greater good. We have supported the development of this school both for our own farmers and the nation’s farmers. It will play an important part in helping all of Morrisons farmers to get to net zero by 2030, but Morrisons also wanted to help create a legacy for all of UK farming,” she said.

The way Britain and the world farmed was changing, “and the future is upon us”, said Harper Adams deputy vice chancellor, professor Michael Lee.

“We need to recognise that, and to understand that the future sustainable production of our food is critical. It is time for modern agricultural institutions to develop the systems we need to support this production for the twenty-first century – such as this school, which brings together the expertise we have at Harper Adams with the experience of industry, wherever it is needed in the country. What we are doing here is pioneering, and it will help the UK to lead the world in agricultural thinking and practice.”

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