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Ocado Retail and Soil Association to establish five nature-friendly demo farms

Nature and climate-friendly food production is set to be demonstrated at five UK farms in a new project with online supermarket Ocado and the Soil Association… View Article


Ocado Retail and Soil Association to establish five nature-friendly demo farms

Nature and climate-friendly food production is set to be demonstrated at five UK farms in a new project with online supermarket Ocado and the Soil Association charity.

These farms will significantly help to boost the adoption of nature and climate friendly farming practices around the UK, after analysis revealed that the deterioration of the UK’s natural environment could lead to an estimated 12% loss to GDP[i].

The five farms in the programme will each focus on a different area of farming – from dairy cows, beef and sheep to orchard fruit and potatoes. Each will host training sessions for other farmers, sharing technical expertise and support on a range of nature-friendly agricultural practices.

Sessions will cover topics including:

  • Agroforestry, which combines trees with livestock and crops to provide shade and protection from floods and drought
  • Restoring hedgerows to encourage natural predators and reduce the need for harmful pesticides
  • Using more diverse crop rotations including deep-rooting herbal grass leys and legumes like peas, beans and clovers, which boost soil health and restore nitrogen naturally, as an alternative to fossil-fuel derived artificial fertilisers
  • Recently research by the Green Finance Institute found the UK’s agricultural sector faces risks associated with water, climate regulation, soil quality, and pollution which could impact food production. The potential impact of this on national GDP – 12% – is greater than the damage caused by the global financial crisis (5%) or Covid-19 (11%).

The demo farms are part of a wider partnership between Ocado and the Soil Association which has been established to help transform the way we eat, farm and care for our natural world. Three of the five farms have already been selected and all supply Ocado. One example is Godminster Organic Farm in Bruton, Somerset, which supplies Ocado with White’s Organic Jumbo Oats via White’s and Godminster organic cheese.

The partnership will also support research to advance farm animal welfare, working closely with farmers to enhance positive animal welfare and demonstrate how giving farmed animals a good life is practical, profitable, and sustainable. Alongside the work on the ground Ocado and Soil Association will build a ‘Farm to Fork Ambassadors programme’ – encouraging people providing healthy and sustainable food to share their stories and experiences with others in the industry.

Hannah Gibson, Ocado Retail CEO said: “Supporting local farmers and promoting homegrown produce is something we care deeply about at Ocado. Earlier this year, we launched a Best of British aisle on site to make it easier for our customers to shop for food that’s farmed and produced in the UK. Our new partnership with the Soil Association reinforces our commitment and, by working with farmers who are pioneering agroecological farming practices, we’re increasing the quality, freshness and sustainability of the food we’re able to offer our customers.”

Helen Browning, Soil Association CEO said: “Nature is under threat in the UK and, with 70% of land under farming, we believe farmers need support to shift away from the most damaging practices of intensive farming to restore biodiversity and mitigate the worst risks of climate change.”

“Ocado Retail has always championed small producers and we are excited to be working together with such a young and innovative company which shares our commitment to nature friendly food and farming. Its support will act as a catalyst for change, allowing us to deliver a programme that champions and supports fixing our broken food and farming system.”

Ocado has been a long-standing champion for local farmers and producers – the online retailer’s Best of British aisle on site comprises over 800 UK farmed products. Endorsed by DEFRA and the NFU, the aisle comprises products that are British all year round, with the aim of supporting farmers and promoting the very best homegrown produce to customers. Over the coming months, the 800+ base – the largest range of any other UK supermarket – will be bolstered by seasonal produce as and when it comes into season.

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