Arla 360 farmers are to be offered the chance to find the best environmental options for their land with a new Environmental Planner (E-Planner) tool to be rolled out this autumn.
The E-Planner, developed in partnership with the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH), has been adapted for dairy farmers and uses satellite imagery and environmental datasets to make science-based decisions on the suitability of agri-environmental options, such as wet grassland restoration and grassland productivity mapping, or planting flower-rich pollinator habitats.
Currently free to use, the tool will allow farmers to gauge the likelihood of success of different environmental interventions across their farmland and select the most suitable areas to enhance.
The processor has outlined its intentions to roll out the E-Planner to its 200 Arla 360 members in late autumn following a six-month successful trial at two dairy farms, with a longer-term plan to share the tool with all Arla dairy farmers in 2021.
Graham Wilkinson, agricultural director at Arla Foods, said: “Farmers simply cannot be expected to automatically know which environmental measures best suit the land around them.
“With environmental measures on farm compulsory for all of Arla’s dairy farmers, we hope that in working with the scientists at UKCEH we can ensure they have access to the tools and resources that enable the best decisions.
“Trials and application of technology like this are just one of the ways the Arla UK 360 programme is revolutionising our industry; on farm and through collaborative working practices.”
David Christensen, one of Arla’s farmer owners testing the technology at the Arla UK 360 innovation farm, said the tool had helped modernise management decisions for land which might have been considered unproductive in terms of sustainability and resilience.
Mr Christensen said: “At the click of a button, we are able to look at how the land behaves over time and can therefore make more educated decisions on how best to use all areas of the farm at key times of the year.
“It is going to make an enormous difference to many farmers and the world around us.”
Arla also hopes the tool will help dairy farmers demonstrate the good work happening on their farms through proven technology and positively promote the sector to consumers.