CIEL | Blog: Key takeaways from the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) 2024

Helen Brookes
World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022

The Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) always provokes interesting conversations, with speakers and delegates coming together to consider how to address industry challenges.  Helen Brookes, Head of Business Development at CIEL reflects on some of these key discussions which took place during the conference.

Engaging discussions at the Agri-Tech Centres breakfast reception

Diverse participation: The Agri-Tech Centre’s breakfast reception witnessed a fantastic turnout with a diverse audience, spanning industry experts, government representatives and farmers. This diversity is reflective of the collaborative environment CIEL fosters in its initiatives.

Future focused queries: There was a keen interest in the future role of the Agri-Tech Centres and the intended catapult, with discussion centered around evolving offerings rather than just maintaining the status quo.

Positive engagement: Follow-up conversations revealed the extensive work and collaboration already happening in the sector, highlighting the positive impact of these initiatives.

Insights from the conference presentations  

One of the standout discussions was led by Andy Richardson, Chair of the Welsh food and drink industry, who focused on bridging the commercialisation gap in agriculture. His insights were particularly impactful, emphasising the need for innovation to be purposeful, profitable, sustainable, and collaborative.

The financial aspect of innovation was also a key topic, highlighted by Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

His announcement of £15m of funding,  aimed at supporting both new and existing technologies, highlighting the importance of expanding the innovation scope. Moving beyond just gadgets, this approach includes broader aspects like systems and management processes, which are crucial for the sustainable development of the agricultural sector.

While there may not be an abundance of simple, one step solutions, emerging technologies and novel methods do present promising opportunities for improvement. In line with this, CIEL has been exploring fresh innovations, as detailed in our latest report launched last year, Net Zero & Livestock: Bridging the Gap.

A significant portion of the conference was dedicated to diversity and inclusion in agriculture. The presentations on the second day highlighted the importance of nurturing a diverse new generation in the farming industry, emphasising the need for continuous support and development of diverse talents and perspectives.

Looking ahead  

Overall, the Oxford Farming Conference served as a beacon of knowledge and inspiration to light the various facets of agriculture that are often overlooked. From technology to diversity and collaboration, the conference laid a foundation for future developments in the agricultural sector.

It’s clear that the themes of technology diversity and collaboration discussed at the conference are in line with CIEL’s vision and ongoing work. These discussions lay a solid foundation for the future of the agricultural sector, a future that CIEL is committed to shaping through continued innovation and collaboration.

World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022
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Helen Brookes, Head of Business Development

Helen and the business development team are responsible for CIEL’s Industry Members. Focusing on supporting Members to network and collaborate on industrial research along with identifying funding opportunities to support new innovations. The team also manages several projects across the agri-tech sector. Supports CIEL’s knowledge exchange activities to drive engagement in research is a key growth area within  the teams remit. Helen has more than a decade’s experience working across both Research & Development and Knowledge Exchange teams, complemented by experience in the commercial and research sectors of the agricultural industry. She is passionate in driving the adoption of innovation and moving the behaviours of the industry forward to face challenges and create opportunities.

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