Heading to the UAE Investopia event to talk about agri-tech, moderating a session on future farming, was quite an experience and I learned such a lot about how the world views food security and its links to public health. It was also really inspiring to learn how the Farming Ministry was attached to those for health and the economy, all viewed as intrinsically linked.
The purpose of the event was to bring together all aspects of trade, research, and commerce that a nation would want – from bio-medical to crypto currencies to agri-tech, priorities for the UAE that delivered an international event benefitting many nations. The bedrock of a thriving economy is a healthy population and environment, and Investopia was created to discuss a value-led ecosystem of economics, growing and health.
Today we cannot feed our growing global population, while some nations waste almost as much as they eat by poor production system management, an imbalanced marketplace and underdeveloped secondary processing opportunities.
Modern technology is moving us towards greater knowledge of the performance of our orchards and fields and a greater understanding of the precise needs of our plants, and it is directing us towards a more sustainable position, working with our natural resources and regenerating our environment.
The tomorrow for food production, discussed in Dubai, is about plants without soil, meat without animals, farming without people and a technology-led system which delivers environmental regeneration, healthy food where it is most needed and a data-led farming resource which is good for business through carbon offset, good for the environment by sequestrating that carbon, good for the population by improving their health and good for the economy through security of food provenance and full crop utilisation.
Closer to home, the 89th AGM of the Marden Fruit Show Society (the National Fruit show these days, of course) also delivered a panel of experts, on this occasion firmly anchored in the here and now.
I drew up a wish list of those I wanted to speak based on the DEFRA statement released on Christmas Eve about the seasonal workers scheme and they all said yes! The day covered robotics and machine learning, research, immigration and labour pressures, retailer regulation, national farming policy and, happily, an exclusive tour of the new Growing Kent and Medway facilities.
There is a report on the AGM conference programme elsewhere in this edition, so I won’t go into detail, but sadly the policy and labour elements of the programme gave little hope to the attendees of a swift resolution to the labour challenge facing our sector; it’s looking desperate, to be frank.
With warm weather forecast for the next few weeks, there is a good prospect for a decent blossom set. Trees are looking well, blossom is strong in many orchards and it’s already warm enough for good pollen motility and rapid cell division. All positive.
One thing was clear at the National Fruit Show event. Everyone agreed that harvesting is a skilled job; we need that message finally to land with government and inspire it to link the nation’s economy with health and farming.