M&S team up with AgriSound to help farmers with pollinator management
M&S has announced a three-year collaboration with agri-tech start up AgriSound, designed to help farmers better manage pollinators and increase crop yields.
The collaboration will see two M&S Select Farms, Plumford in Kent and G’s Growers in Cambridgeshire, install in-field sensors for three years, allowing them to track the number of pollinators visiting their farm in real-time and target specific interventions for improving numbers.
AgriSound are biodiversity experts, based in York, that have developed specialist listening devices, which combine acoustic technology and environmental sensors to monitor the density of key pollinators, including bumblebees and honeybees, as well as the wider insect community remotely. The devices collect and send data via mobile data, with users able to see results via a smartphone or web app.
Chris Elworthy, Director, Plumford Farm Ltd, said: “Pollinators play a vital role in helping us to deliver the best quality fruit we can at the farm – so we’re keen to see the impact of different wildflower densities in the orchard alleys on activity. With so many current environmental challenges, it’s now more important than ever to understand pollinators better. We’re delighted to be taking part in the project and excited to see what beneficial outcomes can be achieved by these relatively simple measures. If we can attract even more pollinators to our orchards, this will be a real success.”
The collaboration is part of M&S five-year Farming with Nature programme, launched last year, to support the retailer’s Select Farmers to become more resilient to environmental challenges spanning climate change and biodiversity loss.
As part of the programme, M&S has partnered with specialist industry partner LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to strengthen pollinator-friendly farming practices across M&S’s grower base in the UK. Already LEAF Marque certified, M&S British growers set aside a minimum of 5% (average of 11%) of their farmland for wildlife (according to growers this includes 925 hectares of wildflowers – equivalent to over 1,000 football pitches), in addition providing year-round food for pollinators and monitoring pollinators on farm.
Andrew Clappen, Technical Director at M&S Food, said: “Improving biodiversity is at the forefront of our plans to help farmers become more resilient to the impact of climate change. Pollinators are the unsung heroes of British farming – helping to improve yields and quality while benefitting the wider environment.
Since we launched Farming with Nature, we’ve been hosting workshops offering advice to our M&S Select Farmers on the best ways to attract more pollinators. Now, by partnering with AgriSound, both Plumford farm and G’s Growers will have real-time data and valuable insights into what’s working and what’s not.”
Casey Woodward, Founder and CEO of AgriSound, said: “We’re delighted to team up with M&S and install some of our PollyTM devices across two innovative producer sites. The development of PollyTM has taken years of dedicated research and it is really exciting to see our technology beginning to deliver unique insights into pollinator activity. I look forward to working closely with the teams at M&S, Plumford and G’s Growers to help protect local pollinator communities.”
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