Retailer M&S has entered into a three-year partnership with York-based start-up AgriSound to assist some of its select farmers in improving their management of pollinators while boosting yield.
G’s Growers in Cambridgeshire and Plumford Farm in Kent will participate in the programme by installing listening sensors that will be able to track bumblebees, honeybees and insects in real time using acoustics and other environmental factors. Users can get information through an app from AgriSound.
Because of climate change, weather and losses in biodiversity, M&S has been working on a five-year Farming with Nature programme, to help farmers withstand those challenges.
“Pollinators play a vital role in helping us to deliver the best quality fruit we can at the farm – so we’re keen to see the impact of different wildflower densities in the orchard alleys on activity,” Chris Elworthy, Director of Plumford Farm said. “With so many current environmental challenges, it’s now more important than ever to understand pollinators better. We’re delighted to be taking part in the project and excited to see what beneficial outcomes can be achieved by these relatively simple measures. If we can attract even more pollinators to our orchards, this will be a real success.”
With environment being a top concern for two-thirds of families across the UK, according to M&S’ latest Family Matters Index, M&S is one of the many retail chain aiming to prevent more harm from occurring. To ensure that happens, it also has joined forces with LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to improve pollinator-friendly farming practices. M&S growers set aside at least 5% (average of 11%) of their farmland – including 925 hectares of wildflowers for wildlife. M&S is also with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, FERA and Kings Frontiers on increasing the among of flowers. So far, 15 hectares of habitat has been developed, with 4 hectares devoted to pollen, nectar and habitats.
“Pollinators are the unsung heroes of British farming – helping to improve yields and quality while benefitting the wider environment,” Andrew Clappen, Technical Director at M&S Food, said. “Since we launched Farming with Nature, we’ve been hosting workshops offering advice to our M&S Select Farmers on the best ways to attract more pollinators. We’re also working closely with farmers on land use and different wildflower mixes to boost pollinator numbers, alongside crop health and pest management.”