Field labs are practical, hands-on trials that are open to everyone. Working with a group of likeminded farmers or growers and a top researcher, you can get fast and thorough insights into new solutions to challenges facing your business. Field labs are codesigned by all participants allowing them to collect robust data which is relevant to the real-world farming environment and easily transferable to their businesses.
Field labs are helping us change the way we farm. After trialling cover crops on four hectares in our field lab, we are now going to put 60 hectares of them across the farm. And in 10 years I’d really like to be doing it across the whole farm, once we’ve learned a bit more.
How does a field lab work?
From an existing discussion group, project or network, a group of farmers or growers come together around an idea.
Supported by a coordinator, the group establishes a topic or challenge they’d like to explore and sets realistic expectations and outcomes for the field lab.
Innovative Farmers matches the group with a researcher so they can develop a practical research question to be answered through a field lab. The group works collaboratively to design what data to record and monitor, ensuring the trial is both scientifically robust and practical for a working farm. The plan should be realistic about the roles, responsibilities, and time that the triallists and researchers can commit.
The group can apply to the Innovative Farmers Research Fund to cover trial costs.
The group meets regularly and uses social media to discuss insights and tips and make sure the trial stays on track and data is collected regularly.
The group jointly analyses the findings and identifies what they have discovered over the duration of the field lab.
The results and tips are shared with the farming community though events, online and in the media so everyone can benefit.
The farmers apply what they have learned to their farming business and explore whether a new field lab or other funding streams are needed to answer further questions.
Every group requires funding to help get it off the ground and take some of the risk of innovation away. Interested groups can apply for a grant of up to £10,000 to assist in covering the costs associated with running a trial. This can be matched with funding sourced by the group itself or through the support of supply chain business looking to support the trial.
This funding will cover a fee for the co-ordinator and access to a researcher and can go towards any new equipment or inputs that the trial is testing.