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

The Great Farm Challenge 2016 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 introducing biofilters to remove pesticides, upgrading sprayers to increase accuracy, planting cover crops and installing rainwater harvesting systems.

The winners were Easton & Otley College’s team of Cameron Young, Lewis Hart, Chris Stoles and Peter Hyett (pictured) who impressed the judges with their knowledge of pesticide legislation and nutrient management.

Judging panel member Richard Reynolds, Anglian Water’s senior agronomist, 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.”

Judging panel member Sarah Dawkins, Natural England’s Area Manager for Norfolk and Suffolk , said ‘It takes a lot to stand up and present in front of your peers, and we were really impressed with the standard of the student’s presentations, and their knowledge when asked more detailed questions. I really hope that the students take what they have learnt in to their future careers and contribute to a more sustainable natural environment for all’’.