Agro-ecological Knowledge Hub

Engaging the UK Multi-Actor Platform in identifying characteristics of strategies for agro-ecological transitions of arable farming systems  

A subset of the farmers within the UK Multi-Actor Platform met to debate the role of agro-ecological practices in addressing drivers of change, and the types of barriers to their uptake.

Photo: Online workshop of the UK Multi-Actor Platform, June 2020.

Discussion of the market and policy instruments built on those assessed in the workshop of case study actors in January 2020. Other members of the Multi-Actor Platform provided written contributions, or n one-to-one calls. As with so many activities in 2020, the workshop was held online, so enabling safe participation, without the overhead of travel, and a new experience for many including the capability to still have valuable social interactions!
The round of engagement with the Multi-Actor Platform refined and verified the barriers and drivers to agro-ecological transitions. Individual barriers were explored in detail, recognising the need to understand how the significance of some will vary by place, timing (e.g. experience and evolution of the farmer and farm business), and informed by feedback loops from experiences gained by the implementation of specific agro-ecological practices (e.g. unintended benefits or disbenefits of a practice). 

Additional actors were identified as relevant to the creation and delivery of each agro-ecological practice, such as the Scottish Government, notably in relation to designing the forthcoming schemes which will operate outwith the Common Agricultural Policy. The engagement process also reflected upon the effectiveness of previous and existing mechanisms of land management for environmental benefits, and the significance of the perceptions (and prejudices) of different actors of the issues to which agro-ecological practices may contribute solutions, and thus the potential for adverse impacts on the nature of collaborations. 
Outputs are informing the design of simulations of the use of alternative agro-ecological practices on selected farms in the UK Case Study. These simulations are now being assessed using the set of Decision Support Tools (Cool Farm Tool, COMPAS and SMART) being used in UNISECO. They provide modelled profiles of the farms for use in discussion with the local actors over coming months, and for consideration by individual farmers of possible options to pursue. The findings will be reported in Deliverable 3.4 on key barriers to agro-ecological farming systems in Europe and co-constructed strategies for overcoming them.  
The representation of these assessments is being tested by combining outputs from the SMART tool with a 3D model of one farm in the UK case study. The aim is to provide a new way of providing information about what impacts agro-ecological practices can have on the sustainability characteristics of the farm, and to add content to the Storymap of the socio-ecological systems of the UK case study. 

Tagging the assessment of water characteristics from the SMART Farm Decision Support Tool to the water feature at one of the farms in the UK case study, in a 3D model.