The Soil Association announces 2013 Innovation Award winners

11 October 2013

 A biodegradable tree guard. An online local food marketplace. A simple device to reduce water run-off from tramlines. The Soil Association's 2013 Innovation Award winners are true pioneers aiming to reduce the impact of farming and growing on the environment and changing the way producers do business by offering fairer and more ethical solutions.

Farmers and growers were the original inventors and have been dreaming up new ideas for thousands of years. Today, many farmers are constantly trying out new things on their farms.

The Soil Association has led the search for the new farming pioneers of the 21st century. The awards looked not only at practical farming solutions, but also at the way we do business, trade and even communicate with each other. The winners were chosen at the Soil Association's Annual Conference which took place in London 9-10 October 2013. Each of the twelve finalists gave a 2-minute 'Dragon's Den-style' presentation on their innovative approach which was followed by round table discussions amongst the delegates who then voted for their favourite innovator.


The finalists were judged on their practical, new approach to farming and growing, the benefits for people, the planet or animal welfare, and the promotion of sustainable agriculture in line with organic principles.


Tom MacMillan, Director of Innovation at the Soil Association said, ‘The Soil Association's Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme helps farmers drive research, to learn from each other and encourages everyday innovation on farms. It’s inspiring to see just how many great ideas are out there – from farmers, growers and many others working in the sector - and we’re really proud to recognise this creativity and innovation today’.


Winner of the Innovation Award and £3000
Biodegradable tree guard from Ezee Tree Ltd. The countryside is littered with the remains of green plastic tree guards which are both unsightly and a hazard to wildlife. The family-owned Ezee Tree Ltd has designed a tree guard made from 100% recycled moulded fibre, which is waterproofed by using non-toxic additives, and supported by a bamboo cane. In use for more than four years, the hinged design and novel locking mechanism makes the guard easy to place around a sapling and secure in place, rather than a stake and several plastic ties. Not only innovative, this guard costs no more than the ubiquitous plastic tree guard. With more farmers looking to establish agro-forestry schemes on their land, these guards offer an environmentally-friendly option that saves resources and labour as they decompose in situ and do not need to be removed. Another benefit for those producers hosting school visits, the guards can be painted, helping to further engage children with the environment.

The delegates voted for Ezee Tree because: 'it's a practical real world product that's really needed'; 'what a simple, low-tech solution'; 'a single, good idea, wish I'd thought of it!'

Natalie Davies, managing director of Ezee Tree said, "Team Ezee Tree are delighted to have won the Soil Association's Innovation Award. It's great to be recognised for all the hard work and dedication our family team has put in, it's such a simple idea, but did take a considerable amount of research, design and time to be able to launch the Ezee Tree Guard. Plastic has an impact on all of us and we believe everyone is realising this, like we did, when we first came across plastic guards five and a half years ago when planting some trees. We are proud to have developed and now can offer a true, cost effective alternative!"

Runners up and winning £1000
FarmDrop. FarmDrop is an online local food marketplace. Farmdrop champions better food for all by strengthening the relationship between the producers and the consumer. FarmDrop allows consumers to buy local seasonal food direct from the producers by providing an online platform for people to create their own local food market. This arrangement is already providing a fairer deal to producers, who receive 80 per cent of all sales and greater credit for their produce. So far in 2013, there have been 14 FarmDrops across three London postcodes and the company has received 76 requests from people asking to open FarmDrops across the UK.

The delegates voted for FarmDrop because; 'helping to build sustainable food communities has the potential to make a difference', 'this has huge potential for higher returns for farmers', this model could go far - everyone gains but the supermarkets!'; 'it's supporting local producers, a solution to a missing link'.

Wheel Track RollerTM The frequent passage of vehicles along tramlines in fields compacts the soil which makes it easier for the vehicles, but creates conditions that favour water run-off and soil erosion. With the future threat of more extreme weather, water run-off is a problem that can only get worse. Determined to do something to reduce this environmental impact, Charles Creyke designed and patented a roller that works with angled tines to reduce the amount of water and silt running off fields. The tines run along the edge of the tramline, forming tiny drainage channels which allow surface water to escape into the adjoining crops. Under normal conditions, almost a quarter of the rain falling on tramlines runs off fields, but in trials backed by Defra and the Environment Agency the use of his roller reduced this to 2 per cent.

The delegates voted for the Wheel Track RollerTM because; 'increased rainfall is likely in future so we need to prevent run-off and associated soil erosion'; water is such an important resource'; 'it is an innovative solution with environmental benefits'; 'simple, but has huge impacts'; 'managing soil is at the heart of it'.
 


Details of all the finalists can be found here: http://www.soilassociation.org/conferences/2013conference/day2/innovationaward
The Innovation Award is supported by Nesta and the Duchy Originals Future Farming Program

Ends

For media information
Sally Morgan, Press Office at the Soil Association smorgan@soilassociation.org


Contact details for winner and runners-up.
Natalie Davies, Ezee Tree Ltd natalie.davies@ecoezee.com
Charles Creyke, Aquagronomy (Wheel Track Roller) charles@aquagronomy.com
Ben Pugh, FarmDrop ben@farmdrop.co.uk


Notes to Editor
About the Soil Association
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by farmers, scientists, doctors and nutritionists to promote the connection between the health of the soil, food, animals, people and the environment. Today the Soil Association is the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. To find out more visit www.soilassociation.org


About the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme
The Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme supports innovation in sustainable agriculture. The programme helps British farmers identify and adopt practices that improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible way. It involves farmers across the country in developing innovative techniques aimed at improving yields and nutritional performance in organic and low-input agriculture. At the heart of this activity is a network of on-farm events, led by farmers and growers, where they can share their know-how, design field experiments and pinpoint practical challenges. These will shape the priorities for a new research fund, which targets key barriers to sustainable farming and food systems. The programme focuses on ecological farming, especially approaches that reduce farmers’ reliance on expensive inputs. It will therefore be particularly relevant to producers who farm to organic standards, yet open to all. The programme is funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation and will be delivered by the Soil Association in partnership with Duchy Originals from Waitrose and the Organic Research Centre
 






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