Categories
Uncategorized

Peas: Good To Eat, Good For The Soil

Peas: Good To Eat, Good For The Soil

Our 2021 pea harvest campaign is now complete. The 18-strong team has worked around the clock for 58 days from June through to August to collect over nine thousand tonnes of quality peas, providing nutrition not just for consumers but also for the valuable soils across Dyson Farming’s land.

The importance of peas

Their high nutrient content, sweet taste, crunchy texture, and minimal preparation time makes peas the ideal ingredient or accompaniment for many meals.

Peas also play an important role in how we farm and look after the environment, particularly soils.  As they grow, peas capture nitrogen from the air which they use to flourish through the whole growing season. They also ‘fix’ a proportion of this nitrogen into the soil, making them great to grow and rotate across our farms, keeping the soils healthy and contributing towards Dyson Farming’s sustainable farming system.

Rotating crops around different fields is important. Planting the same crop in the same place year after year drains nutrients from the soil that future crops need to thrive. This is why we won’t grow our peas on the same land for 8-10 years in order to preserve optimum soil health.

Planning and technology

Growing a high-quality pea crop requires meticulous planning.  Before planting the seeds, individual fields are mapped using technology such as satellite imagery and electric conductivity scanning to assess soil structure. This allows us to vary the number of seeds we plant in different places to optimise crop performance, meaning we can plant more seeds into the poorer areas of soil and fewer seeds into the better areas, resulting in a more even crop from edge to edge.

When the crop reaches maturity, there is a window of approximately 48 hours during which the peas will be at their optimum quality.  We know when the peas are ripe for harvest by using a ‘tenderometer’ which tests the growing peas in each field and informs us when the peas are at their best.  If the planning is right, we can harvest peas at the right time and in the right field to achieve a consistent supply of high-quality peas.

Harvesting

The peas are harvested using a bespoke pea viner, which removes the pea pods from the plant and then open the pods to collect the individual peas. These freshly harvested peas are transported to the factory where they are washed, blanched and frozen within 150 minutes, to lock in the freshness and nutrients of each pea.

Dyson Farming’s 2021 pea harvest has been a good one. The weather has been kind, allowing us to keep to the planned harvest schedule. Peas need temperatures that are cool, but not too cold, to thrive.

But the good weather has also meant there was no rest for the harvest team, from the day harvest started all the way through to the last pea being delivered for freezing. However, the team has risen to the challenge and produced a fantastic crop of peas.

Dyson Farming Assistant Farm Manager, Rhys Jones reflects on the season:

“Credit goes to the team, who have worked so hard in what has felt like a long season, just because we have not stopped. We are also grateful for the support of the local haulage companies, who have helped move the crop from the fields to the freezer factory with great efficiency.”

What is next for our peas?

Once frozen and packed, our peas are sent directly to retailers and caterers like Baxter Storey and Caterlink for their chefs to use in restaurants, dining rooms and school canteens across the country. 

This year we are delighted that Dyson Farming’s peas will also be available in Marks and Spencer stores.  This required us to pass the Marks and Spencer quality control audit and put in place a system to deliver peas from field to the factory in 120-minutes, hence the name ‘speedy peas’. These peas will be identifiable in Marks and Spencer stores with Dyson Farming’s name on the packaging this autumn.

Preparing for the next season

With the completion of the 2021 harvest, the team are now concentrating on gathering data so they can begin planning for the next crop.

There is also the job of maintaining the machines. With the pea viners running continuously for 24 hours over 58 days during harvest, they are worked hard. The team wash them down before the winter overhaul, when they will be sent away to be stripped down and rebuilt.

Rhys Jones, on the future of Dyson Farming peas:

“Our focus is always to look after our soils and improve the quality of our crop. Innovations in technology and new pea varieties will be factored in when making plans for the 2022 crop. It’s important we get these plans right so we can enjoy another great season next year.”

Head Office

The Estate Office,
Cyclone Way, Nocton,
Lincoln LN4 2GR

We would love to
hear from you

Categories
Uncategorized

Dyson Farming’s strawberries: as the first crop ends, a new one begins…

Dyson Farming’s strawberries: as the first crop ends, a new one begins…

Dyson Farming’s strawberries: as the first crop ends, a new one begins...

The first harvest of Dyson Farming’s strawberry crop, grown in the 15-acre glasshouse in Carrington, is now complete. During the 5-month long harvest, we produced and sold 470 tonnes of strawberries (approximately 23 million berries!).

The meticulous care and attention to the crop by the team has enabled us to produce delicious strawberries which have been sold across the country. 

How it began

The strawberry glasshouse journey began in 2020, with the planning and construction of the 15-acre glasshouse. It has been an amazing journey since then, growing quality strawberries at scale, out of season, and in a sustainable way. 

The concept of sustainable strawberry production came about when we challenged ourselves to come up with the best way of using the excess heat that was being produced from our renewable energy operation. Rather than waste this heat, the glasshouse, which now sits adjacent to the anaerobic digester, captures and uses the heat to sustainably produce strawberries at a time of year when outside temperatures are too cold. You can find more information about how the glasshouse works here.

Dyson Farming Glasshouse Manager, Angel Angelov, reflects on the early days:

“Despite my many years of experience in this field, we had a bit of a challenging start. We needed to build a new team that was capable of learning to work together in a short space of time. Fortunately, the team very quickly settled into their roles and understood what the expectations were. Within the first two to three weeks of the picking season, we had formed hard-working, efficient teams in both the glasshouse and packhouse.”

It is all about the quality

We have been working closely with national retailers, local farm shops and restaurants to sell our strawberries. It is a testament to the team that the quality of the Malling Centenary variety was such that it achieved Marks and Spencer’s top tier approval, Red Diamond Label, and was clearly identifiable in stores with the Dyson Farming logo displayed on the packaging. 

What has made our first season particularly rewarding has been the positive feedback from those who have bought and tasted our strawberries.  We actively encourage people to take an interest in how we farm and with the strawberries, people have taken the time to contact us directly with their opinions, complimenting us on their taste, colour, shape and consistency. 

We take great pride in producing the best possible quality products and this positive feedback will continue to motivate the team going into the autumn season when our second crop of strawberries will be available. 

Moving on to the autumn crop

In preparation for the autumn crop, the hard work continues. Within 3 weeks the team will remove the old crop and thoroughly clean the glasshouse, all growing troughs and irrigation lines in preparation for planting 700,000 new strawberry plants for the autumn season.

The autumn season will also bring with it new challenges compared to the summer season as relatively warm nights and longer days in August will affect the eventual sugar levels in the strawberries. There is a lot of competition for the sugars produced by the plants, and if the growing conditions are not right, not enough sugars are built up in the final berries. 

To prevent this from happening and to ensure top quality is achieved, shading screens have been installed to help control the sunlight, extra CO2 is applied, and plant food recipes are carefully adjusted to feed the plants through the 60,000 metres of irrigation pipes. The team will be taking it very steady, using all their knowledge and expertise to ensure the plants are not put under any undue stress which could affect the quality and yield.

Following the success of the first crop, the second crop of Dyson Farming’s strawberries will be ripe and ready to eat by the end of September.

What about the future?

Angel Angelov explains:

“Whilst our focus remains on producing top-quality strawberries, we are also determined to keep looking to the future and continuing to innovate.  This might include expanding the glasshouse and packhouse facility, growing new fruit varieties, developing robotics for the glasshouse operation or installing growing LED lights to extend the season further over the winter period (December, January and February). We have got off to a good start and I am very excited about what the future has in store.”

Head Office

The Estate Office,
Cyclone Way, Nocton,
Lincoln LN4 2GR

We would love to
hear from you

Categories
Uncategorized

Bird Surveying across Dyson Farming land. Why is it so important?

Bird Surveying across Dyson Farming land. Why is it so important?

Bird Surveying

The importance of Birds

At Dyson Farming we have a team dedicated to protecting and enhancing the environment, who take great steps to monitor and improve our Natural Capital, which includes soil, ecosystems, air and water. The birds that benefit from a healthy farmed environment use Dyson Farming land for feeding and nesting and importantly, provide us with a good indication of the overall state of our natural capital. 

Monitoring their numbers provides us with important insight.  We conduct regular surveys, and the results provide us with data to assess landscape management activities, monitor success and to tailor future improvements.

 

Monitoring bird life

We have been conducting bird surveys for the last 3 years across Dyson Farming land in Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and South Gloucestershire. Bird Surveys are carried out twice a year and take a few hours to carry out in each transect. The areas we survey are known as Transects, and surveyors walk from point A to point B along a defined path. They count the number of individual birds (of each species) that are either seen or heard within a specific distance from their path. The same approach is replicated every year to establish a trend.

Bird surveys are conducted from a list of 1km squares, chosen at random across key areas of Dyson Farming land. Locations are not chosen based on where we expect a high number of birds, as it is important for us to see the overall success and management of the habitat across the entirety of Dyson Farming’s land.

We are fortunate enough to have bird experts who are skilled enough in distinguishing a bird through the naked eye, binoculars and telescopes, or by listening for bird sounds. Understanding how to visually identify a species of bird takes great knowledge and experience, picking out the different colours, sizes and flight patterns of the bird. Similarly, distinguishing them through listening to the bird calls and songs takes a well-tuned ear.

Bird Surveying Technology

In addition to having expert knowledge and experience, surveyors utilise technological support. A handheld Trimble uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate to the correct transect, which means the surveyor can record the information accurately for the survey.

They also use a Pear Geographic Information System (GIS) to extract the information collected from a survey.  This produces a map of Dyson Farming and displays the surveyed area, visually displaying where the surveyed species are on the landscape and how environmental management is undertaken in that area is benefitting numbers.

Evaluation of the recently conducted Bird Surveys

The results of our most recent bird survey have just been assessed.  They showed that across Dyson Farming land, different landscapes benefitted different species. For example, on Nocton Fen, there were a notable number of Yellow Hammer species, whereas in Oxfordshire, the Corn bunting species were thriving.

Of particular importance are the ‘Red List’ bird species which are UK Birds of Conservation Concern and are the most vulnerable.  They include Grey Partridge, Lapwing, Curlew, Woodcock, Marsh Tit, Skylark, Starling, Song thrush, Mistle thrush, House sparrow, Tree sparrow, Yellow wagtail, Linnet and Yellowhammer. It is these species that are at the top of the list when it comes to encouraging their numbers on the farms and helping to reverse their decline nationally. 

Dyson Farming manage the habitat to enhance the species found within the landscape with the approach of ‘not one management regime fits all’. The following are a variety of different management strategies we conduct for red listed bird species:

  • Hedgerows are cut on a variable rotation from 1 to 3 years to provide a variety of nesting and foraging habitats for Tree Sparrows, Yellow Hammers.
  • Fallow plots, which is the process of working land in dedicated small plots for Curlew, Lapwing and Skylarks, for them to breed on or near by.
  • Managing woodland to promote the successful breeding of Woodcock, Song Thrush and Marsh Tit.
  • Managing the wider farmland with margins and wild bird cover for the benefit of Skylarks, Linnet, Lapwing, Grey Partridge, Starling.

As Ian Willoughby, Dyson Farming’s Environmental Coordinator, explains:

“We will continue with the same methodology for surveying birds that has already been established to allow us to compare data year on year. The surveys are a key part of environmental management and I believe it will provide important baseline data for when Environmental Land Management is introduced. It is also a very practical way to measure and demonstrate Dyson Farming’s environmental achievements, not only internally for operational staff but also externally to those who, like us, believe bird life is fundamental to a flourishing natural farming environment.”

Head Office

The Estate Office,
Cyclone Way, Nocton,
Lincoln LN4 2GR

We would love to
hear from you

Categories
Uncategorized

The story behind Dyson Farming’s South West Beef & Lamb production.

The story behind Dyson Farming’s South West Beef & Lamb production.

The story behind Dyson Farming's South West Beef & Lamb production.

We believe our meat is special, not only because it tastes great, but we also have an interesting story to tell. Our overall farming ethos is to create a long term, regenerative model that will leave a positive land legacy now and in 100 years’ time. Our farming practices have been designed to protect and improve animal wellbeing and to look after the environment.

The South West is where our livestock farming started and just over two years ago, we began working with Farleigh Road Farm Shop, a local farm shop near Hinton farm, selling them lamb and whole carcass beef. The partnership is still going strong, with beef & lamb going there every week, and importantly, clearly labelled as Dyson Farming so that people can be reassured that it is indeed our beef & lamb.

We have learnt a lot in this time and gradually we have expanded our customer list into a variety of different butchers, restaurants, pubs and hotels. On top of this, individuals can purchase beef & lamb directly through our website.

We also supply beef & lamb to Dyson’s Malmesbury Head Office every fortnight, and this collaboration has allowed us to develop a close relationship with Dyson’s Executive Chef, Joe Croan, who uses our beef & lamb to feed over 4000+ Dyson employees at three separate catering locations. The feedback we get from Joe is invaluable and his experience as a top chef helps us understand what he requires in terms of meat quality and consistency.

Award-winning quality

It is important that our beef & lamb quality is tried and tested. To do this, we entered the Taste of The West competition last year to get some feedback from independent food experts about the quality of our meat. This included the tenderness, taste, visual appearance and packaging of the cuts. We were delighted that our topside joints, ribeye and sirloin steaks achieved GOLD awards, with the topside joint selected as the highest placed beef product in the 2020 competition.

Innovating in Beef & Lamb quality

Part of the Dyson Farming ethos is to keep on innovating.  We use technology to generate a digital footprint for every animal, tracing its parentage and place of birth and allowing us to track all movements as well as its health and wellbeing.

We have also been working closely with the team at the GoodBeef Index to grade our cattle, allowing us to monitor cattle as they grow.  They have developed a scanning process which provides us with a measure of future eating quality, nutritional value, and environmental credentials. This helps us develop diets and handling systems to produce the best quality and environmentally sustainable beef.  This type of meat grading is similar to those used in places like the US, Australia and Japan. It is a relatively new innovation and is only used by a handful of farmers in the UK but could become more widely used in the future.

As Peter Lord, Dyson Farming’s South West Farm Manager, explains:

“The GoodBeef Index is hugely helpful for both us and our customers; we receive a quality score which endorses our product, and our customers understand the different grades of meat under this system. This transparency allows both parties to set a fair price and being able to rely upon a certain quality goes a long way to ensuring consistency of quality. For consumers, it gives confidence that the meat they are purchasing is great quality with genuine provenance.”

Sustainable Beef & Lamb production

Livestock production is an important part of our circular farming system, utilising land that is more suited to grazing. Dyson Farming holds one of the largest single countryside stewardship agreements in the country, protecting sensitive farmland and providing food for bees and other invertebrates that pollinate our crops and livestock have an important role to play in this.

Our beef cattle are cared for on our farms to high animal welfare standards, and when appropriate, housed in state-of-the-art open barn facilities. They eat a mixture of dedicated forage crops and cereals such as wheat and barley that grow on our farms. 

Sheep were introduced to our farms to help better utilise permanent pastures and to add valuable nutrients back to arable land while grazing cover crops over winter. Again, every animal can be traced to its mother and place of birth and are well suited to the climate on our farmland.

What about the future? 

As Peter explains:

“We have learnt a lot about livestock production since we started, and I am excited about the future. For a start, there is the scope to be much more vocal about the things that we are already doing. People are becoming more interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced. 

The beef & lamb we produce is appreciated by our customers and we take pride in our sustainability credentials. The opportunity is to keep on innovating and explaining to people what we do and why we do it, so they are reassured that they are getting a quality product.”

Head Office

The Estate Office,
Cyclone Way, Nocton,
Lincoln LN4 2GR

We would love to
hear from you

Categories
Uncategorized

Water: Dyson Farming’s Approach To Protecting This Critical Natural Resource

Water: Dyson Farming’s Approach To Protecting This Critical Natural Resource

Water: Dyson Farming's Approach To Protecting This Critical Resource

The importance of water

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water”.  As WH Auden wrote, water is critical to life. 

Here at Dyson Farming, water is an important part of our natural resources.  It sits alongside soil, air, and biodiversity on the farms, all of which contribute to our natural capital account, produced annually, to ensure that how we farm protects and enhances our farming environment.

The quality and availability of water that flows through our farms affect our ability to grow crops, raise livestock and nurture other plants and wildlife.  It also impacts the quality of drinking water that eventually flows through the taps into households.  How we monitor and manage water is therefore essential. 

Managing and monitoring water quality

At the heart of our approach is analysing water quality before it enters and as it leaves via the watercourses that flow between our fields.  This gives us a better understanding of the impact farming practices have on water quality and on the surrounding environment.

We base our farming practices on Integrated Farm Management.  This combines modern technology and traditional methods to increase farm production whilst protecting vital resources such as water.  For example, ‘precision farming’ technology means we can apply plant protection products to specific plants as opposed to whole fields, dramatically reducing usage.  Similarly, water courses are surrounded by uncropped ‘buffer-strips’ of land and other field margins which protect water courses and provide a continuous corridor of habitat and forage for wildlife.

Recently, water analysis was undertaken on six watercourses across the Lincolnshire Estate at Nocton Fen, Dunston Beck, Cranwell, Stubton, Carrington and Edlington.  We worked with Anglian Water to agree a suite of indicators, which they typically use at their water treatment works to measure water quality.  Nitrate, phosphate, biological oxygen demand, suspended solids and plant protection products were assessed at the Anglian Water laboratories. Overall, we are pleased to report that the results showed that water quality across the estate is good.

Example of water sampling at Carrington:

Example of water samples collected and stored, ready for analysis. 

As Dr Tom Storr, Dyson Farming’s Research Agronomist explains: 

“The water leaving the fields contained nitrate levels below the drinking water limit and phosphate was either in the good or high standard category. Water was clear and had a low biological oxygen demand too.”

“We plan to continue our partnership with Anglian Water, measuring the water quality on an annual basis during the winter period when the drainage from the fields is high.  By monitoring our water resources, we can be confident that everything is being done to protect and enhance the water quality on our farms, which will benefit the environment, wildlife and the produce we grow for our customers.”

Head Office

The Estate Office,
Cyclone Way, Nocton,
Lincoln LN4 2GR

We would love to
hear from you