Reflections of the 2014 Oxford Farming Conference

There was a tremendous turnout of delegates from this side of the Irish Sea attending the recent Oxford Farming Conference. United Feeds’ general manager Dr Keith Agnew told AgriLand that the event provides tremendous insights into the entire gamut of issues that will impact on the farming and food sectors moving forward.

“I was tremendously impressed by the number of young people both speaking at the event and in attendance, who are committed to a future in agriculture,” he added.

“One of the most fascinating themes addressed by this year’s conference as that of achieving sustainable expansion at farm business level. It is now obvious that a significant number of corporates, that are now keen to invest in agriculture, have recognised that it makes sense to build a family farm ethos into their business plan. In this way, the people involved have a greater ownership of the project. Such an approach also ensures the development of a more flexible business model – one that s more likely to succeed in the long term.”

Agnew continued: “I was also impressed with the insights, which the conference provided into the development and adaption of new technologies within the agri sectors.”

Danske Bank’s John Henning was equally impressed with this year’s proceedings.

“The extent of confidence and enthusiasm in the future for agriculture and the opportunities provided for farmers driven by increasing food demand, climate change, scarce resources and the need for ‘sustainable intensification’ were very evident,” he said.

“A useful barometer of this confidence & enthusiasm could  be seen in the number of younger delegates attending and the extent of  their participation in the discussion sessions and debates.

“There was also a clear emphasis placed on the need to focus on farm structures in the future, in light of Common Agricultural Policy Reform. This must be coupled with the need to enable more younger people to enter the industry. The terms contract farming and  share farming seem to be making a comeback and could be important in  helping to tackle the issues around ‘active farmer’ status.

Henning concluded: “The conference also highlighted the enormous potential for social media to change the way farmers do  business with targeted use of the most appropriate social media channels  helping farmers and food businesses to ‘fish where the fish are’.”

Pictured: United Feeds’ Dr Keith Agnew

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