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New Entrants to farming sought for DEFRA incubator pilot

Posted 28 November 2022

“The New Entrant Support Scheme gives individuals without easy access to land an opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and build a network which might help them realise their dream of becoming a farmer. This sector is ripe for innovation and needs to change, so we are hoping to welcome a diverse range of people onto the programme - because diversity will create the energy and innovation which is desperately needed."

A woman in a field gathering crops at sunset

New entrants to farming, with fresh ideas and new approaches, are being invited to apply to a DEFRA scheme being piloted in the region by Harper Adams University.

The scheme – launched by DEFRA this month – will enable participants to develop the skills and network they need – as well as their business case to secure land. A series of organisations across English regions are working to pilot various projects in particular sectors during the pilot phase – with Harper Adams leading the pilot in the West Midlands.

This pilot will deliver a training and support package, starting in January 2023, with a blend of face-to-face and online activities. It will involve specialist academics from the University, together with external experts, financial partners, field visits to the Harper Adams Future Farm and to various partner organisations during the programme.

As the UK's leading specialist university for the agri-food and rural business sectors, Harper Adams leads the way in developing the new generations of technology and talent that will transform agriculture, with vast expertise in how to develop successful land-based businesses, plus myriad stakeholders from across the agricultural sector.

WiRE Director Polly Gibb said: “The recent impacts of Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of the Ukraine war have far-reaching consequences for agriculture.

“When coupled with changes in subsidy payments, and the urgent need to move towards more regenerative farming, a chance presents itself for new entrants with novel ideas and innovative practices to generate exciting new ways of working in this traditional sector.

“The New Entrant Support Scheme gives individuals without easy access to land an opportunity to develop skills, knowledge and build a network which might help them realise their dream of becoming a farmer. This sector is ripe for innovation and needs to change, so we are hoping to welcome a diverse range of people onto the programme - because diversity will create the energy and innovation which is desperately needed.

“The pilot is not just for arable or animal farming businesses but embraces farming in its widest sense, including horticulture, agro-forestry, and environmental service businesses, such as providing livestock for arable farms as part of an agroecology system, as well as innovative production systems for novel food and resource types.”

The programme will showcase innovative practices and technological developments and clearly demonstrate successful business models in action. Delegates will also have to opportunity to work on their business skills and develop their pitches to articulate their vision and business case for the land and resources they need to jump-start their new farm venture.

The programme has been designed so that delegates can combine it with a current role, whatever that may be – with a combination of online and in-person activities, much of which can be completed at times chosen by participants.

During the pilot delegates will have the opportunity to meet an array of key stakeholders, role models, players, and professionals, from across the Midlands, and some with national reach.

This will be through activities, workshops, field trips presentations and events, including a two-day residential event at Harper Adams University.

The pilot is open to individuals from across the West Midlands under two main categories:

  • Start-up - Individuals with some farming, conservation, land-based experience or expertise, but not their own business.
  • Scale up - Individuals with four to 10 years’ experience running a Land-based business (such as an individual business, a Community Interest Company, Co-operative, Community Supported Agriculture Partnership or similar.)

For more information and to apply, click here.

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