Agricultural students in East Anglia were put through their paces last Thursday in a contest to find the best water-friendly farming ideas


The Great Farm Challenge 2017 final at Newmarket’s prestigious Rowley Mile racecourse was a chance for the next generation of the farming industry to present their plans for managing successful farms while protecting local water quality.

Six teams from two of the region’s top agricultural colleges, Easton & Otley and Moulton, battled it out to impress judges from Natural England, Environment Agency and Anglian Water’s farming advisory team.

The teams each had to visit a farm and present their recommendations for assessing its impact on the local water environment. Their ideas included practical, on farm improvements to manure storage facilities, substituting metaldehyde with ferric phosphate, improved soil management to mitigate compaction and the use of cover crops to reduce nitrate leaching.

The winners were Easton & Otley College’s team of Don Baker, Beth Cavendish, Rose Woodbridge, Edward Knock and Billy Hoody-Brown who impressed the judges with their ideas for addressing water related environmental risk and knowledge of the issues facing the agricultural industry.

Judging panel member Dr Lucinda Gilfoyle, Anglian Water’s senior catchment manager, said: “These youngsters are just starting out on their careers in the industry so it was fantastic to hear how aware they are of the latest techniques for protecting the water environment.

“It is vital that the farming sector really gets to grips with issues like nutrient management, precision farming and watercourse protection if we are to continue delivering world class produce whilst protecting drinking water sources and wildlife.

“I was really impressed with what I saw today and I look forward to working with these farmers in the future as we aim to make our region a leader in sustainable agriculture.”

Bob Middleton, Catchment Sensitive Farming Project Manager, said “I am delighted that once again Natural England’s CSF is working alongside Water Companies and the colleges to provide a great opportunity for young farmers. “

“The Great Farm Challenge not only educates future farmers about DWPA and the benefits of protecting the environment, but it’s a great example of partnership working and a chance to work with like-minded people from other organisations also working on catchment management. Over the four years the project has been running, we’ve educated just over 600 young farmers and land managers about the impact of agriculture on water sources and hopefully got them thinking about what they can do, not only to improve water quality, but also keep their businesses going from strength to strength”