31 October 2016: Sustainable Futures Symposium 2016

Posted on October 10, 2016 in Events by . Share this article

Keynote speaker: Helen Browning OBE, Chief Executive of the Soil Association

Monday 31 October, 9.30am-5pm
Registration from 9am, drinks from 5pm

Firth Hall, Firth Court (9am to 3pm)
Council Room, Firth Court (3pm onwards)
The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN


This event is open to staff and postgraduate students at the University of Sheffield only.


Firth Hall, Firth Court, The University of Sheffield

9am-9.30am: Registration and coffee

9.30am-10am: Introduction

Tony Ryan – Director, Grantham Centre

10am-11am: Talks by Grantham Scholars

Understanding the relationship between stomatal density and plant disease.
Christian Dutton – Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

Automating agriculture: using UASs to monitor for environmental and management benefits
James Lambert – Animal and Plant Sciences

Using MAGIC Arabidopsis to understand CO2 response
Hannah Sewell – Animal and Plant Sciences

Plant hormones and seed size
James Thackery – Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

11am-11.15am: Coffee

11.15am-11.35am: BIOMASS: Measuring the wood in the Earth’s forests from space

Shaun Quegan – Mathematics and Statistics

11.35am-12.20pm: Keynote speaker

How organic techniques can benefit all farmers and growers
Helen Browning OBE – Chief Executive, Soil Association

12.20pm-1.10pm: Lunch and poster session

1.10pm-1.30pm: Power, trust and risk: Supplier-retailer relations in the UK food sector

Richard Bruce – Grantham Industry Engagement Fellow, Grantham Centre

1.30pm-2.30pm: Talks by Grantham Scholars

The impact on soil physicochemical properties following the addition of micro and macroalgal species
Emanga Alobwede – Chemical and Biological Engineering

Integrated modelling approach to evaluate the effects of enhanced weathering and the advanced farming scenarios towards addressing the problems of food security
Angesh Anupam – Automatic Control and Systems Engineering

Developing a complex intervention to encourage sustainable food choices
Fiona Graham – School of Health and Related Research

Observed trends and impacts of climate change and variability on wheat production in the UK and Germany
Monica Ortiz – Geography

2.30pm-3pm: Coffee and poster session

Council Room, Firth Court, The University of Sheffield

3pm-5pm: Panel session chaired by Duncan Green – Senior Strategic Adviser, Oxfam

Gendered digital divides – and what we can do about them
Dorothea Kleine – Geography

Adaptive water governance: the promises and pitfall of institutional bricolage
Frances Cleaver – Geography

Poverty Dynamics and Asset Data – how do the rural poor benefit from economic growth?
Dan Brockington – Director, Sheffield Institute for International Development

5pm-6pm: Drinks

Our annual symposium showcased multidisciplinary sustainability research across every faculty of the University of Sheffield. It gave researchers across the University of Sheffield the chance to network with Grantham Scholars and Supervisors.

The afternoon session featured a joint Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures/Sheffield Institute for International Development sponsored panel of work.  It focused on international development issues and was chaired by Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Advisor to Oxfam GB.

Helen Browning OBE, Chief Executive of the Soil Association was our keynote speaker. She spoke about ‘How organic techniques can benefit all farmers and growers’.

About our keynote speaker

Helen Browning farms organically in Wiltshire and founded the Helen Browning Organic brand. She also chairs the Food Ethics Council. Prior to rejoining the Soil Association, Helen was Director of External Affairs for the National Trust. She was a member of the Government’s Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food (‘the Curry Commission’) and chaired the England Animal Health and Welfare Implementation Group. Helen was awarded an OBE in 1998 for her contribution to organic farming.

How organic techniques can benefit all farmers and growers – abstract

Organic farming may seem to some as a rather esoteric activity catering for a niche market. It might be more appropriate to think of it as the basis of all good husbandry, however. At a time when many of the inputs that have enabled the basic principles such as rotational design, good manure management, use of legumes etc to be disregarded are now running into difficulties, either of efficacy or regulation, organic techniques have a great deal to offer.

Reducing antibiotics is a good example of this. Organic farmers have developed systems that are much less likely to require antibiotic use, and these approaches could help conventional farmers do the same. As blackgrass becomes ever more resistant to herbicides, mixed farming and the cultural control techniques used by organic farmers are starting to be re-evaluated. There are plenty of similar examples.

That’s not to say that organic farmers have all the answers! Innovation is needed, but research is often lacking. Organic methods are largely reliant on improving the use of farm resources, rather than purchasing inputs, and so are less attractive propositions for commercial research. The Soil Association has helped to develop the Innovative Farmers Network, part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, which puts farmers in the driving seat on applied research, and gives small grants to help establish on farm ‘field labs’ when a group of producers work together on a common challenge. In the last couple of years, this approach has stimulated some exciting new thinking and promising developments on both organic and non organic farms.