Retailer is working with AgriSound, Plumford and G’s in a new biodiversity initiative
M&S has kicked off a three-year collaboration with agri-tech startup AgriSound with the aim of helping growers better manage pollinators and increase crop yields.
The collaboration will see two M&S Select Farms, Plumford in Kent and G’s Growers in Cambridgeshire, install in-field sensors for three years, allowing them to track the number of pollinators visiting their farm in real time and target specific interventions for improving numbers.
Biodiversity experts AgriSound are based in York and have developed specialist listening devices which combine acoustic technology and environmental sensors to monitor the density of key pollinators, including bumblebees and honeybees, as well as the wider insect community remotely. The devices collect and send data via mobile data, with users able to see results via a smartphone or web app.
At Plumford, the sensors will be located in a new orchard, to help assess the effectiveness of different densities of wildflowers in attracting pollinators. G’s Growers will be placing the sensors in a range of different agri-environment habitats, such as hedgerows, pollen and nectar mix and wild bird seed mix, to evaluate the relative value of these different habitats in attracting pollinators at different times of the year. Learnings will be shared with the wider industry.
Chris Elworthy, director of Plumford Farm, said: “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. 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.”
The collaboration is part of M&S’ five-year Farming with Nature programme, launched last year, to support the retailer’s Select Farmers to become more resilient to environmental challenges spanning climate change and biodiversity loss.
As part of the programme, M&S has partnered with LEAF to strengthen pollinator-friendly farming practices across its grower base in the UK. Already LEAF Marque certified, M&S British growers set aside a minimum of 5 per cent - and an average of 11 per cent - of their farmland for wildlife, in addition to providing year-round food for pollinators and monitoring pollinators on farm.