Sustainable Intensification Project

SIP Objectives

SIP Project 1: Integrated farm management for improved economic, environmental and social performance

SIP Project 1 was delivered by a consortium of 30 partners and sub-contractors from universities, research institutes, farming industry and environment organisations, led by NIAB and supported by an extensive network that spans the UK food supply chain. Its main objectives were:

1.1: Develop improved indicators and standardised methodologies for land managers and their advisers to measure the economic, environmental and social performance of farms.

1.2: Identify and develop farm management interventions for the sustainable intensification of agriculture (at farm level). Examples include: practices to increase productivity, reduce costs, improve resource use efficiency, control pests and diseases, mitigate greenhouse gasses and pollution and provide habitats for biodiversity.

1.3: Investigate ways of better communicating complex messages to farmers and propose approaches for more innovative decision support.

The project also aimed to:

  • Better quantify the outcomes of Integrated Farm Management (IFM) techniques and produce stronger evidence that they contribute to sustainable farming.
  • Push the boundaries of current IFM practices and develop more innovative practices.
  • Guide more farmers in adopting IFM.

SIP Project 2. Opportunities and risks for farming and the environment at landscape scales

Led by the University of Exeter, this Defra commissioned project developed approaches to understand the actions that are needed at landscape scales to deliver ecosystem services, productive and profitable farming businesses and biodiversity. This entailed understanding:

a) Geographical variation in land capability (for food production and opportunities for other ecosystem services) and environmental risks, and

b) The need for collaborative decision-making between multiple farms and governance at the landscape scale to deliver ecosystem services, biodiversity and profitable farming businesses.

Specific objectives of the project were to:

Objective 2.1: Develop a landscape typology based on land-use opportunities for business planning and environmental risk for agricultural land in England and Wales

A: Develop a landscape typology

B: Identify land-use opportunities, risks and conflicts to develop targeting approaches

Objective 2.2: Identify objectives that require coordinated action over large spatial scales, develop and test landscape-scale interventions

A: Identify environmental and economic objectives that require coordination at landscape scales and design landscape-scale interventions

B: Design and test landscape-scale interventions in study areas

Objective 2.3: Encouraging and influencing landscape-level collaboration

A: Understanding the social and economic constraints to collaboration

B: Design and develop a sustainable intensification benchmarking system to stimulate information-sharing between groups of farmers

The project was managed by a Project Management Team consisting of representatives from the University of Exeter (lead), ADAS, Bangor University, BioSS, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Fera, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, University of Kent, LEAF, NIAB, The University of Nottingham, Rothamsted Research and Westcountry Rivers Trust

The SIP 2 partners were the above organisations plus: University of Bristol, BTO, University of Cambridge, Eden Rivers Trust, Glasgow Caledonian University, The James Hutton Institute, Lancaster University, University of Leeds and Newcastle University

Project 3: A scoping study on the influence of external drivers and actors on the sustainability and productivity of English and Welsh farming

SIP Project 3 was a 6-month scoping study completed in October 2014, led by ADAS.

SIP 3 provided an opportunity to understand how farmers respond to external influences such as market forces and climate change and look for opportunities for these to drive sustainable intensification. Its objectives were to:

3.1: Explore how farmers respond to opportunities and risks from combinations of external factors within the SI platform study areas in the short, medium and long term

3.2: Investigate the influence of the food supply-chain and other actors on farm and landscape management decisions within the SI Platform study areas

3.3: Identify market opportunities and non-market mechanisms to drive sustainable intensification

In addition the scoping sought to:

  • Explore emerging and novel ways in which the food-chain and other stakeholders can drive sustainable intensification on-farm
  • Identify opportunities within the study areas for farmers to capitalise on the environmental and societal benefits they provide

The Partners were: ADAS, SRUC, LEAF, Fera, Newcastle University and Aberystwyth University.

Governance Structure

Policy Steering Group

A Policy Steering Group was established to act as the policy customer for the research. It included representatives from across Defra, the Devolved Administrations, Natural England and the Environment Agency. It provided strategic policy steer and input into the review of policy relevant deliverables.

Research Advisory Group

A Research Advisory was established to provide expert advice to the Defra Project Board and Project teams. Its responsibilities included reviewing draft SIP deliverables to ensure research is robust, value for money, crosscutting, peer-reviewed, of the highest standard and scientifically complete; ensuring interaction and communication with relevant domestic and international research organisations and initiatives; and ensuring that the SIP's research scope is aligned to Research Council priorities, reflective of stakeholder needs and is designed to achieve impact; and to stimulate new ideas for research and identify areas of uncertainty.