It is not every day you get to be involved in creating and developing a nationwide campaign using the latest virtual reality technology. Young Farmers Alice Partridge, Katie Grantham and Annie Pushman, tell Farmers Guardian how they set about informing the public about food.
The skills shortage facing British farming has prompted the launch of a scheme to attract young people to the industry.
McDonald’s launched its Follow our Foodsteps campaign, offering virtual reality (VR) tours of its farms, using 360-degree videos to tell how the food on its menus is grown, produced and prepared for its 3.7 million UK customers each day.
Annie Pushman, Alice Partridge and Katie Grantham are undertaking the Progressive Young Farmer programme with the company and were invited, along with a collective of tech developers and food experts, to create the 12-month campaign.
The team had to use technology to show customers how food is made and take consumers behind the scenes on some of the company’s flagship farms, factories and restaurants.
The move comes as new figures reveal a need to attract 109,000 new recruits into the food industry by 2022 as the UK population is projected to rise by 4.4 million in the next decade.
Visitors to Follow our Foodsteps can look behind the scenes in four different experiences:
The campaign will tour 2,000 miles around events and shows.
"After the co-creation session the hard work started to bring our ideas to life. After visiting potato farms supplying McDonald’s, meeting growers and riding around in tractors, the developers created a prototype that was rigorously tried and tested by their agriculture team.
"We were then invited down to Brighton where the virtual reality developers are based to try out an early version of the ‘Top of the Crop’ virtual reality challenge.
"All the content for the ‘Top of the Crop’ game had to be created from scratch and coded into a game that could be played using Oculus Rift technology.
"Having never experienced virtual reality before I couldn’t believe how realistic it was, you really get the feeling that you are harvesting potatoes.
"With the head set on you could see the entire tractor cab around you and could even feel the different gradients in the field.
"The game itself is great fun, with the aim to try and fill your trailer as efficiently and carefully as possible against another player, it’s a fun way to see how good you’d be at driving and also highlights just one of the many skills required to be a potato farmer.
"Having grown up on a farm I understand how much hard work, dedication and skill is required to run a successful farm but it still surprises me that many people don’t see agriculture as a progressive industry.
"This initiaitive highlights how many different roles there are within the food and farming industry and gives people a real taste of what it’s like – all without having to physically be there."
"Following our brainstorming session, three 360° films were created to give the public an immersive real life experience of different aspects of McDonald’s supply chain.
"The aim is for people to put on a headset and be transported to a free range egg farm in Cumbria, an organic dairy farm in South West England or OSI, one of two dedicated production facilities which produce the beef patties.
"I was so excited when I was asked to star in the organic milk film. I was working on the farm as part of my Progressive Young Farmer placement so it was great to show everyone what I had learned and share my experiences.
"My role was to guide the viewer through exactly what they could see in each scene, and share interesting facts about the supply chain.
"Filming in 360° is so different to normal filming because the camera films in all directions at the same time so the viewer can see what’s behind them, up, down left and right.
"This meant that during filming anyone not in shot had to go and hide. This is fine when you’re in a building but there’s not many places to hide in the middle of a field!
"I’d never done anything like this before but I am hugely passionate about the industry and loved sharing the great things I see everyday with other people.
"I only hope that seeing dairy farming through my eyes inspires people to learn more and encourages them to think about a career in food and farming."
"McDonald’s decided to launch ‘Follow our Foodsteps’ to improve understanding about food and farming.
"Research shows out of 2,000 people, three quarters of people want to know more about where their food comes from and two in five people have never set foot on a working farm.
"While I didn’t grow up on a farm I have always had access to farms and animals, so it was such a surprise to learn some people had no idea.
"To help show people a glimpse of the industry and ensure the experiences were as true to life as possible, we were invited to co-create a number of virtual reality experiences for the campaign.
"This whole process started for us way before Christmas when myself, Katie and Alice were asked to attend a co-creation workshop in London.
"Having never done anything like this before I wasn’t sure what to expect or what we would be required to do.
"In the workshop we worked alongside the McDonald’s agriculture team, some of their creative team and some very clever guys who design virtual reality games to decide the content for these experiences.
"We started by using some of the tech for ourselves then brainstorming some ideas for interactive games and challenges that would both give the British public a true to life farming experience and show the modern farming practices behind the food served in McDonald’s restaurants.
"By the end of the day we had decided on a bespoke virtual reality experience that should focus on potatoes.
"Last September McDonald’s committed to sourcing all the potatoes for their fries from British growers, so we thought it would be a great time to show the public more about the skills needed to be a potato farmer.
"We knew the game needed to be competitive, fun and really visual and now we’d started to do the thinking, it was up to the developers to go away and make our ideas a virtual reality."