M&S has announced a three-year collaboration with agri-tech start up AgriSound to pilot an in-field sensor, which the retailer says will help farmers to maintain quality of produce and improve crop yields through better management of pollinators.
The initiative is part of M&S' five-year Farming with Nature programme and will see two M&S Select Farms – Plumford in Kent and G's Growers in Cambridgeshire – install in-field sensors for three years, allowing them to track the number of pollinators visiting their farm in real-time and target specific interventions for improving numbers.
Plumford Farm Ltd director, Chris Elworthy, stated, "Pollinators play a vital role in helping us to deliver the best quality fruit we can at the farm - so we're keen to see the impact of different wildflower densities in the orchard alleys on activity.
"With so many current environmental challenges, it's now more important than ever to understand pollinators better. We're delighted to be taking part in the project and excited to see what beneficial outcomes can be achieved by these relatively simple measures. If we can attract even more pollinators to our orchards, this will be a real success."
M&S Food technical director, Andrew Clappen, added, "Improving biodiversity is at the forefront of our plans to help farmers become more resilient to the impact of climate change. Pollinators are the unsung heroes of British farming – helping to improve yields and quality while benefitting the wider environment.
"Since we launched Farming with Nature, we've been hosting workshops offering advice to our M&S Select Farmers on the best ways to attract more pollinators. Now, by partnering with AgriSound, both Plumford Farm and G's Growers will have real-time data and valuable insights into what's working and what's not. We're also working closely with farmers on land use and different wildflower mixes to boost pollinator numbers, alongside crop health and pest management."
More than 70% of the world’s food crops grown for human consumption rely on pollinators for sustained production, yield and quality, the retailer noted citing data from AgriSound and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
AgriSound founder and CEO, Casey Woodward, commented, "The development of PollyTM has taken years of dedicated research and it is really exciting to see our technology beginning to deliver unique insights into pollinator activity. I look forward to working closely with the teams at M&S, Plumford and G's Growers to help protect local pollinator communities."
The Bumblebee Conservation Trusts CEO Gill Perkins added, "To help wild pollinators, we need to work across the wider countryside and farmland is the key to that. It's great to see M&S working with farmers to thoroughly integrate monitoring and pollinator-friendly management into these systems."