Last month, during this year’s Love Lamb week, we launched an exciting new initiative called #LadiesinLamb, which aims to help and support young women to enter the sheep industry.
The National Sheep Association and National Farmers Union have highlighted the need to encouraging new, young entrants to the industry to ensure its long-term viability. At Agrantec, we believe that the future viability of the UK sheep industry depends on encouraging young people, especially young women into sheep farming.
Food and farming are currently male-dominated sectors so this is an opportunity to try to redress the gender imbalance by focusing on attracting more women into the industry.
Traditionally, agriculture is a male dominated industry. But we are seeing a sea-change. Today, women make up 28% of the British agricultural workforce and the numbers of women running farms has steadily increased to just over 25,000. Dynamic groups like Ladies in Beef and Ladies in Pigs are fantastic examples of women at the forefront of promoting quality British produce at home and overseas. Women are increasingly taking on senior positions in key farming organisations – including the NFU and AHDB.
Universities and colleges also report a rise in female students taking agricultural courses with 25% more women (1,115) than men (820) enrolled onto agricultural-related courses in 2015. The Royal Agricultural University, in Cirencester, has seen a 44% increase in female students, while Harper Adams University, in Shropshire, has recorded a doubling of the number of female students studying agriculture over the last five years – boosting female representation in the agricultural faculty to nearly a third.
It is also interesting that many women now head up countryside based organisations. Just to name a few, we have Dr Therese Coffey MP as a DEFRA Minister of State (put in place by our female Prime minister – Teresa May), Minette Batters as NFU vice-president, Stephanie Hilborne, CEO of the Wildlife Trusts, Caroline Drummond, CEO of LEAF, and Helen Browning, OBE, CEO of the Soil Association.
But it is not just women changing the face of British agriculture; technology is also proving to be a radical game-changer in farming. Precision farming that uses GPS (Global Positioning Systems) is not only helping to drive down costs but also offers considerable environmental benefits. GPS helps the farmer to pin-point exactly where seeds are drilled, meaning there is less wastage and the ability to target sprays and fertilisers more accurately means a reduction in costs as well as being much more environmentally friendly.
Our own NotaZone data management and traceability software platform is an example of how technology helps farmers on a day-to-day basis. NotaZone can change the way food businesses gather, collate and share food supply chain data in a way that simplifies their administrative burden and saves them time and money. It makes it simple to store and track production records, including distribution and safety processes, down through the food supply chain – from field to fork.
The future of agriculture lies with active young farmers willing and able to embrace the benefits of technology. And a diverse and dynamic industry needs more women to ensure a viable future for British farming. Ladies in Beef has shown how people can work together to do this in the beef sector. Our idea is to create a similar network for sheep farming. Our business involves creating platforms for data collection, tracing and recording in food production and processing. We would like to use this knowledge and experience to help promote British Lamb and it would be great to think that we could work with others so that Ladies in Lamb was well established by Love Lamb Week in 2018.
Why not join us?