Research projects

Duchy Future Farming Programme

Duchy Future Farming Programme

Acronym : DFF

Contract Period : 01/05/2012 -

Project Webpage :

Main Funder : The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation

ORC Staff Contact : Bruce Pearce

The Duchy Future Farming programme supports innovation in sustainable agriculture. The programme will help British farmers identify and adopt practices that improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way.

Project Aims:

The Duchy Future Farming programme supports innovation in sustainable agriculture. The programme will help British farmers identify and adopt practices that improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way. It involves farmers across the country in developing innovative techniques aimed at improving yields and nutritional performance in organic and low-input agriculture.

The activities within the programme include:

Field labs: These are farmer-led learning events, open to all (both organic and non-organic), which will appraise innovative agroecological approaches, share existing best practice and sharpen participants’ problem-solving skills. The field labs will be hosted by farms that are already trialling new practices, and will see the same group of farmers meet several times through the production season to monitor progress and discuss alternative approaches.

Priorities and partnerships: The research needs identified in the field labs will feed into a formal process of reviewing research priorities in agroecology, involving farmers, researchers and other people with a stake in farming, led by ORC. Through our Participatory Research Network, we will broker partnerships between research centres and farmers to pursue these priorities. We will also track relevant research developments and communicate these to farmers.

Research fund: The research themes that we identify will shape the priorities for a small new research fund. The fund will support farmers to get involved in research projects and, where appropriate, pilot work to provide a launch pad for larger research projects.

Road maps: The research priorities will also feature in broader reviews of the challenges facing each major sector (e.g. dairy, poultry, horticulture) and the contribution that agroecology and organic farming can make to addressing them. These road maps will be developed in consultation with farmers, growers and other stakeholders, and will set out shared aspirations and action plans. They will provide the framework for reviewing and improving SA standards to ensure they promote continuous improvements in agricultural, environmental, animal welfare and social performance.

Farm data network: Soil Association Certification’s IT and inspection infrastructure, currently collecting data from 2,400 farms certified to Soil Association standards. It is aimed to develop this resource to help evaluate the impact of the field labs and enable participating farmers to benchmark their performance.

Policy and communications: We want the work we do on the ground to inform and inspire policy relating to research and innovation for sustainable agriculture. We will seek to engage policy makers and leading scientists in the programme, providing opportunities to visit participating farms and learn about the issues alongside us.

For further information see the programme briefing for producers (PDF 1.6MB) document.

ORC's Role:

ORC’s role within the programme is:

  • Work with the Soil Association team to manage the programme
  • Produce reviews of research literature to identify current scope of knowledge and identify research and knowledge transfer priorities in agroecology through a participatory process
  • Map and establish contact with research and innovation centres of excellence
  • Support producers in initiating research projects (match-making)
  • Input into indicator development and subsequently analyse data to support farming best practice and programme evaluation
  • Revise existing and write new technical guides
  • Provide a user-friendly research news digest suitable for organic and conventional producers
  • Promote involvement and participate in field labs
  • Advocate improvements in research and innovation policy at the EU level
  • Support engagement with RDP European Innovation Partnership
  • Research and write systematic evidence reviews for policy where there is a clear and agreed need

Current progress highlights:

We are seeking input into our work on setting research priorities from organic and other agroecological producers. This is being undertaken at producer events, field labs and via an online survey. Current planned events are:

  • 21 November 2012: Horticulture as part of SA Soil Symposium
  • 22-23 January 2012: ORC Organic Producers’ Conference – two days of discussions on a wide range of topics and an opportunity to develop specific producer-led project ideas
  • Via the web survey here

Project leader and partners:

All sources of funding:

A list of all funders to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation is available online.