Tesco and Harper Adams University's School of Sustainable Food and Farming (SSFF) have announced the launch of a significant new multi-year programme that will help up-and-coming British farmers develop their skills in sustainable agriculture.
With recent surveys suggesting younger farmers have identified skills gaps in sustainability and the environment, the Future Farmer Programme will provide 75 young farmers with face-to-face and live online training on implementing sustainable agriculture practices and protecting biodiversity.
The nine-month course, which will run each year for the next three years, will include events and mentoring sessions on business operations and personal development.
Farmers under 40 from across different agricultural sectors and at different stages of their development will be encouraged to apply for the programme before its start date in October.
As part of the Partnership with SSFF, Tesco will fund research projects to address some key sustainability challenges affecting agriculture. The first research project will bring together different sectors of Tesco's agricultural supply base to understand how the land can be environmentally and economically sustainable for all parties involved in an agricultural rotation.
Speaking at the launch of the programme at the Royal Welsh Show, Ashwin Prasad, Tesco's Chief Product Officer, said that British agriculture plays a crucial role in protecting and enhancing the country's natural environment and will be right at the heart of the United Kingdom's efforts to achieve its net zero ambitions.
"It's also had to overcome some incredibly tough challenges over the past two years, which is why we're committed to supporting it, both now and in the future," said Prasad.
Prasad said that with this in mind, he was delighted to be launching this new programme with Harper Adams University, which will see some of the brightest young talents in the industry benefit from training and support in implementing sustainable agriculture techniques, helping to safeguard the industry, and the United Kingdom's natural environment, for future generations.
Simon Thelwell, Director of the School of Sustainable Food and Farming at Harper Adams University, said the industry was entering a hugely exciting but challenging next chapter for United Kingdom Agriculture.
"The transition to more sustainable food production systems is a significant change for many farmers, and so understanding these issues, identifying the opportunities they present, and being prepared to make change is the key focus of the course," said Thelwell.
"The course is split into three focus areas, Understanding Sustainability, which will explore the key drivers and opportunities for the industry; Agile Mindsets, which will help participants identify their strengths, capabilities and weaknesses; and Agile Business, which will help them structure and adapt their business, existing or new, and to identify new opportunities and methods for a sustainable future."
Tesco has provided much-needed support across several farming sectors over the last 18 months to help overcome inflationary challenges, affecting the prices of inputs such as feed, fertiliser, energy and labour. Tesco's help has included financial support packages for the pig and egg sectors, its continued commitment to its Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group, now in its 16th year, and its established feed model for poultry farmers.