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Smart solutions to the challenges faced by farming will be theme of this year’s National Farm Management Conference, due to take place this autumn.... Farm conference focuses on ‘intelligent’ business

Smart solutions to the challenges faced by farming will be theme of this year’s National Farm Management Conference, due to take place this autumn.

Run by the Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM), the one-day event will explore innovations in intelligent systems – including how new technical and business skills can get the best from farm businesses.

The conference will be held at on 7 November at the QEII Centre in London. Speakers will discuss emerging technology – such as artificial intelligence (AI) – and how it will make good people management skills even more important.

IAgrM director Victoria Bywater said: “The rapidly evolving environmental and political landscape means it’s clear we need to be able to manage our farms and supply chains even more intelligently than we’ve done in the past.”

Commodity prices

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation chief economist Máximo Torer will set the global scene for the day with a view on commodity prices, input costs and outline the challenges of scarcity of supply and cost inflation.

John Shropshire, chairman of vertically integrated fresh produce grower G’s, will relate these issues to the management of his own business. Andrew McLay, from Innovate UK, will look at innovation opportunities and challenges in the agribusiness sector.

IAgrM chairman Richard Price said: “It’s a pivotal time for the industry and ensuring the current workforce and new entrants are well equipped to take on challenges we’re yet to experience is vital to maintain a resilient agri-food supply chain in the UK.”

A special session will discuss people – specifically leadership in agriculture and personnel of the future, with speakers from Harper Adams University, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, Morrisons and Forces Farming.

Artificial intelligence

Lincolnshire farmer and Agreena partner Thomas Gent will then chair a session on ‘What sort of intelligent farm systems will we need for the future?’. This will look at the role of automation and AIas it pertains to future agricultural management.

Jack Bobo, from Nottingham University, will join the session alongside Ed Ford, from Dyson Farming; and Matt Percy, vice-president of Business Innovation with a specific focus on artificial intelligence from John Deere in the USA.

To finish the day, delegates will hear views from farmers David Jones from Hatton Bank Farm and sisters Kate and Vicky Morgan from East Yorkshire, on how farms can employ high quality people, automation and innovation.

For full details and to secure your ticket, please visit

Land values climb to new heights

Farmland prices hit an all-time high in the first quarter of 2024, with bare agricultural land in England and Wales reaching £9,250/acre.

The increase represents a 1% rise over the previous quarter, taking the annual rate of price growth to 6%, according to the latest farmland index from global property consultants Knight Frank.

Farmland values outperformed other major asset classes over the 12-month period, including the FTSE 100 (+4%), UK house prices (+1%) and prime central London residential properties (-2%). Only gold, with an 11% increase, fared better.

‘Remarkably resilience’

“The farmland market has remained remarkably resilient amid economic headwinds,” said Knight Frank head of rural research Andrew Shirley.

“Our research highlights that low supply volumes combined with strong demand from a wide range of buyers, including those looking to participate in environmental schemes are supporting prices.”

Drivers include increased government funding for environmental land management programmes, buyers with rollover tax liabilities to mitigate and limited publicly marketed land for sale.

Additionally, recent HMRC confirmation that land enrolled in environmental schemes still qualifies for agricultural property relief on inheritance tax, has provided reassurance among landowners.

Certainty from the government had added some confidence, said Mr Shirley. But he added: “The market remains a little uncertain. The loss of the Basic Payment Scheme may now be starting to bite, which could boost supply.”

Looking ahead, the general election could also slow down market activity – prompting vendors and buyers to adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ approach until there is more clarity with a new government.