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New project farms sought for Farming Connect ‘Our Farms’ network

FARMERS are being given the chance to trial new innovations and technologies in farming ahead of Wales’ transition to the Sustainable Farming Scheme as Farming Connect is recruiting farms to trial on-farm projects.

The new Farming Connect knowledge transfer programme got underway on 1 April 2023 by the Welsh Government, and is now looking for businesses to join the ‘Our Farms’ network.

The farms will get the chance to run funded trials and projects on aspects of farming that they are interested in and expect to be of benefit to their businesses.

There will be a focus on innovation and new technologies to help them and other Welsh farms reach net zero by 2050, and to build both resilience and sustainability amid a changing climate.

The farms will benefit from significant project support and guidance from a fully-funded sector-specific industry specialist.

Farming Connect’s Head of Technical Siwan Howatson said that farms that had previously been part of the network had learned which systems and practices work well – and which don’t for their individual farms.

“They are now in a stronger competitive position, better-placed to deal with market volatility, to thrive and prosper,’’ she said.

They include Llion and Siân Jones, who farm at Moelogan Fawr, near Llanrwst.

The Jones’ said their work as a demonstration site had been a “fantastic opportunity’’ to analyse specific aspects of the farm to improve profitability and future-proof the business.

“Both projects involved collecting and analysing data to improve flock and herd health and efficiency; this has allowed us to identify the stock that perform best on our upland farm.’’

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It is not just farms like Moelogan Fawr that benefitted from those projects – the trials had inspired and encouraged many others to put in place innovative ways of working and to introduce new technologies to improve performance, Mrs Howatson said.

“The new recruits will continue to provide this inspiration and encouragement of others to also consider how they can increase the long-term sustainability of their businesses ahead of the new SFS,’’ she said.

Farms are being recruited from the dairy, red meat, pigs, poultry, arable and horticulture sectors, and farms with woodland too.

Applications for an expression of interest can be submitted from Monday 3 April 2023 until 10am Monday 17 April 2023 on the Farming Connect website.

Mrs Howatson said applications were being sought from keen, ambitious and forward-thinking individuals who want to develop their businesses over the next two years.

“We are keen to hear from farmers who are willing to open their doors to other like-minded farmers to learn and share best practice and new ideas on the back of on-farm projects and trials results to drive innovation across the farming industry in Wales via on-farm events, digital events and social media,’’ she said.

Farms can be part of the network for one or two years. They will also have the opportunity to participate in multi-site pan-Wales projects similar to Farming Connect’s Welsh Soil Project.