Waitrose to trial new farming tech at Hampshire farm

Waitrose is set to trial new farming technology at its farm in Leckford Estate, Hampshire.

The Big Four supermarket’s tech is set to be tested over the next 15 years as part of its wider aims to hit net-zero by 2035.

Waitrose said Leckford has already kickstarted several sustainable energy projects to replace fossil fuels.

For example, Waitrose said it will trial the use of biomethane to power tractors, as well as Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO) to power food processing and farming activities.

In addition, Waitrose said it will continue to work with UK-based agricultural technology company, Small Robot Company, to “drive innovation” in the low-emission autonomous machinery sector.

The Big Four supermarket also said it has invested in a biomethane facility to harvest “fugitive methane” currently going into the Earth’s atmosphere from animal manures and food processing by-products.

The supermarket claimed this new facility will save over 500 tonnes of carbon per annum from going into the atmosphere, and that the biomethane captured will be converted into an eco-friendly fuel alternative to power vehicles.

Other initiatives set to be implemented at Leckford according to Waitrose include “rehoming” apples and pears that don’t meet its product specifications to become juice or cider.

In addition, Waitrose said it will use waste from the milk processing unit on its farm by sending it to an external company for use as a energy source and that pellets generated from its on-site rapeseed processing will be used for animal feed.

In addition, the supermarket said it will implement a 12-year crop rotation cycle at the farm.

This will see it maintaining wildflower plots to encourage “friendly” insects and pollinators and promote biodiversity, and introducing herbal leys, which will be left for three and a half years and grazed by its beef cattle as part of its arable rotation.

Waitrose said data collected at Leckford will be shared with its UK wide farming network to ensure that its suppliers benefit from the trials.

“We will use our farmland at Leckford and the full weight of our resources to facilitate radical change across our industry,” said Waitrose executive director James Bailey. “Specifically, we will use a combination of research and practical application to identify the best farming techniques to help us manage this land in a way that is kinder to the environment.”

He added: “Whether it’s planting trees to promote biodiversity, or reducing water usage to protect resources or using regenerative soil practices that help sequester carbon, our focus will be on biology rather than chemistry.”

“It is good to see Waitrose commit to innovative farming practices which will contribute to their net zero ambitions,” said environment secretary George Eustice. “Last year, the Government set out how we will transform the way we support and incentivise farmers to farm more sustainably, create space for nature and enhance animal welfare.”

He added: “These incentives will provide a powerful vehicle for achieving the goals of our 25 Year Environment Plan and our commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

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