·M&S and AgriSound teaming up on in-field sensor trial to help farmers with pollinator management to maintain quality of produce and improve crop yields
·Over 70% of the world’s food crops grown for human consumption rely on pollinators for sustained production, yield and quality1
·Collaboration is part of M&S’ five-year Farming with Nature programme to help farmers address environmental challenges and protect biodiversity
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.
At Plumford in Kent, the sensors will be located in a new orchard, to help assess the effectiveness of different densities of wildflowers in attracting pollinators. Meanwhile, G’s Growers in Cambridgeshire will be placing the sensors in a range of different agri-environment habitats, such as hedgerows, pollen and nectar mix and wild bird seed mix, to evaluate the relative value of these different habitats in attracting pollinators at different times of the year. Learnings will be shared with the wider industry.
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.