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Exploring the Future of Lowland Peat 2023

Exploring the Future of Lowland Peat 2023

On the 17th and 18th April 2023, Fenland SOIL was delighted to host its inaugural conference at The Maltings in Ely. The purpose of the conference was to bring together stakeholders to Explore the Future of Lowland Agricultural Peat. The conference was hosted in partnership with The University of Cambridge Centre for Landscape Regeneration

Attended by over 200 delegates including farmers from across the East Anglian Fens, as well as farmers from lowland agricultural peat production areas from across the UK. The conference was well attended by university delegates from various institutions, as well as environmental groups, local government, national retailers, policy makers from DEFRA and a range of other stakeholders from across the Fens.

Delegates enjoyed presentations from some of the UK’s leading academics on peat and sustainability from UKCEH, Cranfield University and The University of Cambridge. With presentations from leading peatland academics from Canada, The Netherlands, Germany and Sweden.

The event was chaired by John Shropshire, of G’s Fresh and Chairman of Fenland SOIL, with sessions moderated by, recently retired CEO of NIAB Dr Tina Barsby, Fenland Farmer Michael Sly and Prickwillow Farmer Tom Clarke.

The evening reception was opened by the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Dr Nik Johnson who introduced keynote speaker, BBC Countryfile and Sky TV journalist Tom Heap, who has recently published his book and Radio 4 podcast “39 Ways to Save the Planet”.

Delegates also took part in a series of workshops across the two-day event with two sessions designed by DEFRA and delivered by Fenland SOIL and a further session exploring mapping opportunities at catchment scale using local expert knowledge.

Fenland SOIL was formed in 2021 in response to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate, which published its landmark report in October 2021. This research identified that the region’s farming practice and agricultural peat use is a significant obstacle in the journey to Net Zero by 2050, with peatland emissions estimated to account for up to one third of the region’s carbon release.

As a farmer led organisation, Fenland SOIL recognises the importance of the Fens and ensuring that we respect and preserve the Fens for future generations as a key aspect of UK food security and thriving environment for wildlife and biodiversity.

Currently the Fens account for 33% of England’s fresh vegetable production, employing over 80,000 people with a food supply chain value of £3.1bn, while being home to half a million residents and 13,000 different animals and plant species. Lowland Peat areas across the UK are an integral constituent of UK agricultural production. 

At the core of Fenland SOIL is an ambition to bring key stakeholders together with a united front and through showing proactivity we will be able to positively influence and help shape policy so that it is fair and realistic for those that will be implementing it.

Commenting on the conference Megan Hudson General Manager of Fenland SOIL

“We were delighted to bring together some of the leading minds in lowland agricultural peat production, we have been able to start a dialogue between different stakeholders and share what we see as emerging best practice for lowland agricultural peat production. Linking farmers with some of the UK and Europe’s leading peatland academics and encouraging networking between the various stakeholder groups can only be a positive thing.

The output of the conference and work of Fenland SOIL will help to shape policy thinking within government and best practice for farmers as we strive towards net zero by 2050.”

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