LEAF's Annual Conference 2024- What a Success!

Pathways to Sustainability – Scaling the Transition of Global Agriculture

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We were thrilled to welcome over 600 people to our hybrid conference in London at the BNP Paribas UK Headquarters and online.

The four big themes running through the day were:

'How can we bring different sectors together to support the global transition to more sustainable farming and food systems?’

‘What are the main drivers and incentives needed to support farmers in making the transition to net zero including the role of Integrated Farm Management?’

‘What is the role of livestock within a more sustainable farming system?’

‘What is the value and importance of soils from both a farming and commercial perspective?’

    Expertly chaired by BBC broadcaster and journalist, Tom Heap, we brought together twenty speakers and panellists representing practical farming, academia, research, retail, the financial sector, and a range of NGOs. Along with the LEAF Lecture delivered by Professor Jacqueline McGlade former UN Environment Chief Scientist, the day was split into three panels (you can view our programme for more information about the day):

    Panel 1

    Explored the specific role of Integrated Farm Management in scaling the transition to more sustainable farming. We heard from Dr Alastair Leake from the Allerton Project (a LEAF Innovation Centre), Professor Rosemary Collier from the University of Warwick, Wyn Davies and Jop Blom from the UN Sustainable Rice Platform and James Bradshaw from Tesco – all sharing different insights about the practical application of IFM, research perspectives and the role of retailers. Additional contributions to the panel discussion were provided by Tom Green, LEAF Marque Chairman.

    Panel 2

    Examined the role of livestock in a global sustainable farming systems and what this looks like in practice. Andrew Hoad (LEAF Demonstration Farmer) from the Leckford Estate, Dr Tamsin Blaxter from Table, Ffinlo Costain of 8point9.com, Professor Jude Capper from Harper Adams University (a LEAF Innovation Centre) shared insights into policy, the global risks associated with livestock production, what changes are necessary and what a sustainable livestock system looks like in practice. We were joined by Vicky Robinson from the AIC and Dan Stevenson from LEAF for the panel discussion.

    Panel 3

    Refocused the debate back onto global farming practices and specifically, the value and importance of soils. Professor Jane Rickson (LEAF Trustee) from Cranfield University, Jonathan Armitage from Strutt & Parker, Duncan Farrington (LEAF Demonstration Farmer) from Farrington Oils Ltd, examined how farm businesses, financial markets and food producers can engage effectively with the complexities of soils in a global context. Professor Jacqueline McGlade, our keynote speaker, joined the discussions on our third panel.

    The LEAF Lecture

    Delivering this year’s LEAF Lecture, we were delighted to welcome Jacqueline McGlade, Professor, Sustainable Development & Knowledge Systems, University College London, former UN Environment Chief Scientist and Co-founder of Downforce Technologies.

    She outlined the scientific evidence around carbon measurement and capture within the context of a global farming system and spoke about the challenges around the alignment of reporting and data collection. Professor McGlade also highlighted the societal challenges being faced around the globe such as decarbonisation, adjusting to changing weather patterns, and the decline of wildlife rich habitat.

    Our Ten Top Take Outs

    1. There is still an urgent need to address the climate crisis, with agriculture being a key part of the solution.

    2. Industry must continue to unite and work together, to find new ways of thinking and practical solutions to scale up sustainable farming systems globally.

    3. We need to go back to restorative phases of the rotation - to improve soil health, fertility and biodiversity.

    4. Evidence and data are fundamental to change but there are still many challenges regarding the alignment of data and reporting.

    5. Livestock do have a place in a global farming system, but there is more work to be done in terms of understanding the scientific evidence around carbon emissions and challenging consumer perceptions and behaviours.

    6. Retailers continue to play a significant role in scaling up Integrated Farm Management across their supply chains and supporting growers on their sustainable farming journeys. This is true of LEAF Marque certification, with more retailers adopting it across their supply chain.

    7. We must unlock the great potential of soils – we need to avoid soil degradation and start restoring soil resources and ecosystems.

    8. We need to build nature-based land management decisions that transform lives and meet humanity's need for natural, permanent carbon removal.

    9. "Sustainable agriculture is the right thing to do for all our futures." - Duncan Farrington, LEAF Demonstration Farmer

    10. We need to rethink agriculture from the ground up: “Linking people to the planet and the place.” - Prof. Jacqueline McGlade

    Catch Up

    If you missed this year’s conference, there are lots of ways to catch up on all the action:

    Read our conference press release

    Look at a selection of our favourite photos from the day

    Watch the live stream and highlights video

    Download the conference programme

    Thank you!

    Our grateful thanks to all our speakers and panellists, to our sponsors Strutt & Parker, Oxbury Bank and Frontier Agriculture for their generous support, and to all our delegates for sharing your thoughts, experiences and insights.

    And Finally

    Keep an eye open for announcements of our 2025 Annual Conference and if you would like to get involved either as a speaker or sponsor, we would love to hear from you – please email: [email protected]