We launched Vitacress Farm Excellence on the 5th June on World Environment Day.
The first stage of our programme is to determine the baseline ecology for each of our growing sites so that we can set clear goals to improve the ecology at each site. To date, the Hampshire & Isle of Wight's Wildlife ecology arm, Arcadian Ecology, have carried out ecological appraisals at 8 of our 11 farms. The remaining surveys will be completed in 2021.
These ecological appraisals form the basis of a report for each growing site, which summarises the baseline ecology of the site and outlines recommendations for ecological improvement. We are building strong collaborative relationships whereby our growing managers and the ecological surveyors work together to establish the best ways to implement these recommendations for maximum environmental benefit - including identifying where growing operations can be used to support environmental improvements These discussions lead to the creation of a bespoke conservation plan for each growing site with actions, milestones and budget allocations. These conservation plans have been completed for Lower Link Farm, Abbotts Ann Farm and Runcton Nursery and delivery of these plans begins in 2021.
Vitacress Farm Excellence is an outcomes based approach to farming and biodiversity and therefore continuous monitoring is critical. Monitoring will take place in house (with training to support this). by local wildlife groups and by professional ecologists as appropriate. Continuous monitoring involves adopting new technologies to improve our capabilities. This year, we started testing this bat sensor across our farms to allow our own team to conduct surveys which have previously required specialist consultants.