Set along the Norfolk–Suffolk border, Elveden Estate covers nearly 10,000 hectares of land in the heart of East Anglia. Half of this is farmed and 30% is devoted to conservation. Elveden shows how a large farm put sustainability and increased biodiversity at its heart while increasing the profitability of the business.
By carefully monitoring its carbon footprint and adopting technology like visual guidance hoes to weed between crop rows, the farm can grow potatoes and carrots to strict quality standards. Today, Elveden Estate produces 25,000 tons of potatoes and 20,000 tons of carrots annually.
Certification and assurance
Elveden is a member of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) and promotes environmentally responsible farming. The Estate is also LEAF Marque approved, which demonstrates that they have been inspected and approved against a carefully selected set of criteria. The Estate strongly believes in the philosophy of Integrated Farm Management (IFM), which is also one of the key principles of LEAF.
Visual guidance hoes are used to weed between crop rows; the computer-controlled guidance system allows cultivation and weed removal between the rows very close to crop without causing any damage. The practice has reduced herbicide use in carrot crops by over 50%.
The potatoes and carrots grown on the farm are produced to strict quality standards to ensure that they meet the requirements of the farm itself (in terms of input and quality), and the specifications of the processor (quality and visual characteristics). The relationship between the farm and the processor is absolutely critical to the continued marketability and quality of the raw ingredients.
Elveden has calculated its “carbon footprint” – the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by the business – with a view to devising an action plan to reduce emissions and energy use.
Elveden has invested in more efficient equipment such as inverter pumps and fans. Energy spend is a significant farm cost, and inverter drives can reduce running costs by up to 30%. Regular servicing of machinery and equipment also ensures they are operating as efficiently as possible.
Elveden has invested in and constructed two 400,000-cubic-meter reservoirs on site that are filled during November and December. To ensure the water quality is of the required standard, a monthly assessment is carried out (during irrigation periods), covering microbiological and nutrient levels (screening for pesticides and nitrogen is also undertaken throughout the season). Elveden uses soil moisture probes to help monitor moisture levels in potato fields, and an on-farm weather station predicts rainfall and soil evaporation rates. This information is then fed into a decision support system that helps calculate irrigation requirements for the potato crop; this reduces production costs and ensures the highest yields and quality.
Biodiversity and ecosystems
The Estate has over 2,000 hectares of conservation area. There are now 50 pairs of stone curlews (almost 15% of the U.K.’s summer population). The Estate has excellent conservation credentials, which are seamlessly coupled with maximizing the efficiency of the productive land.
Elveden has initiated various diversification opportunities that have been an important venture for the business. They have improved the economic viability of the farm business, and reduced dependence on the profits generated by producing primary agricultural commodities.
Learn more about Andrew Francis’ story
Explore the case study, where you’ll find extra details on how the farm has performed against the program’s good practice standards and criteria, what external research reveals about the producer’s actions and how improved sustainability benefits them.
“Here at Elveden, our farming ethos is one driven by sustainability. Our business is based very much around the appliance of science to best practice, while maintaining our traditional landscape and enhancing the environment we work in. The honor of being selected as a Flagship Farmer for McDonalds helps to underpin our belief that at Elveden we approach agricultural sustainability and environmental management very seriously.
It is important for the future of food supply that we look to work as closely as possible with our end customer, to facilitate knowledge transfer in both directions. This portal also helps us demonstrate that our businesses consider all factors influencing the sustainability of food production and the enhancement of our environment.”