– Unique partnership between Morrisons, McDonald’s UK, NFU and Harper Adams University to boost sustainable farming in the UK –

– National ‘first’ could form an important part of the UK’s ‘green recovery’ post Covid-19 –

– Agriculture accounts for 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions –

The first School of Sustainable Food and Farming will officially launch today in the UK, aiming to encourage new sustainable farming methods to help British agriculture achieve its net zero goal.

The School of Sustainable Food and Farming is the first of its type in the UK. Its courses will seek to introduce regenerative methods of farming – for livestock, soil health and biodiversity – to help produce the nation’s food in an even more sustainable and climate-friendly way.

In the UK, agricultural production is currently responsible for 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. So the school will play a huge part in realising the government’s new ‘green’ agriculture policy, unveiled in November last year.

Based at Harper Adams University in Newport, the school’s courses will be designed using the work on sustainable farming and food production by the University, and in unique collaboration with supermarket Morrisons, foodservice outlet McDonald’s UK, and the National Farmers Union.

For the first time in the world the school will bring together all of the latest thinking and learning on farming using sustainable methods. Virtual courses will cover a wide range of topics including carbon sequestration, the potential of green energy production on farms – including anaerobic digestion plants, and understanding the value of carbon. In addition, on-the-farm learning with university tutors will take place – to offer real-world practice. The courses will be run by the UK’s leading experts in agronomy, veterinary practice and nutrition.

The school’s courses will include; undergraduate courses to train new sustainable farmers; short courses and apprenticeships to upskill the current farming workforce; and research posts. The school will also act as a hub for sharing the latest thinking and learning on sustainable farming, and will be involved in policy engagement – to ensure the farming sector gets the support and advice it needs.

Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union, said: “A transformation is needed globally to boost sustainable food production and ensure that we can continue to feed a growing population while doing our bit for the planet. In Britain farmers have an ambition to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and the School of Sustainable Food and Farming will help us get there. It will help our farmers – both established and new – take on the role of world leaders in climate-friendly food production, paving the way for farming across the world in a sustainable and beneficial way.”

Professor Michael Lee, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Harper Adams University, said: “The way Britain – and the world – farms is changing, and the future is upon us. We need to recognise that, and to understand that the future sustainable production of our food is critical. It is time for modern agricultural institutions to develop the systems we need to support this production for the twenty-first century – such as this School, which brings together the expertise we have at Harper Adams with the experience of industry, wherever it is needed in the country. What we are doing here is pioneering, and it will help the UK to lead the world in agricultural thinking and practice.”

Sophie Throup, Head of Agriculture at Morrisons, said: “We need to revolutionise our food production and what we’re doing today is unique. It’s the first time the NFU, restaurants, supermarkets and universities have come together to act with one voice for the greater good. We have supported the development of this school both for our own farmers – but also for the nation’s farmers. It will play an important part in helping all of Morrisons farmers to get to Net Zero Agri by 2030, but Morrisons also wanted to help create a legacy for all of UK farming.”

Harriet Wilson, Agriculture and Sustainable Sourcing Manager at McDonald’s UK & Ireland, said: “We all have a role to play when it comes to tackling climate change, and we are at a moment where we need to work even harder to look after the planet. Therefore we’re really proud to be partnering on this innovative School of Sustainable Food and Farming, which will help us to better understand and implement sustainable farming methods that can be used by the British and Irish farmers that produce the quality ingredients for our restaurants, as well as the farming industry as a whole.”

Harper Adams University is the leading specialist institution tackling the future development of our planet’s food production, processing, animal sciences, engineering, land management and sustainable business.

Morrisons has pledged to become the first supermarket to be completely supplied by ‘zero emission’ British farms by 2030 – five years ahead of the industry. Morrisons is UK farming’s biggest customer and will work directly with its farmers to create affordable zero emission produce. Morrisons UK agriculture target forms part of its plan to become ‘net zero’ for emissions by 2040, in line with the international Paris Agreement.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland recently launched its Plan for Change – a comprehensive business and sustainability strategy to help it achieve its aim of net zero emissions across its entire business by 2040. The plan sets out ambitious goals and actions across its four key areas – Planet, People, Restaurants and Food – to ensure the business leads positive change from farms to front counter.

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