The Sustainable Intensification Platform

The largest specialist group of its kind in the UK

Sustainable Intensification Platform

What is SIP?

The Sustainable Intensification Research Platform (SIP) is a multi-partner research platform funded by Defra to explore the opportunities and risks for sustainable intensification, from a range of perspectives and at a range of scales across England and Wales.There are three linked multi-partner, inter-disciplinary research projects:

SIP 1 Integrated Farm Management for improved economic, environmental and social performance.

SIP 2 Opportunities and risks for farming and the environment at a landscape scale

SIP 3 A scoping study on the influence of external drivers and actors on the sustainability and productivity of English and Welsh farming.

The above projects which started in 2014, will run for three years and will investigate ways to increase farm productivity while reducing environmental impacts and enhancing the ecosystem services that agricultural land provides to society.

This approach whereby farmland is managed to maximise economic, environmental and social outcomes, is termed Sustainable Intensification.

The above projects, which started in 2014, will run for three years and will investigate ways to increase farm productivity while reducing environmental impacts and enhancing the ecosystem services that agricultural land provides to society.  This approach, whereby farmland is managed to maximise economic, environmental and social outcomes, is termed Sustainable Intensification (SI).

What's happening?

The first newsletter from the SIP project SIPScene is now available here. This first edition essentially forms an introduction to SIP and outlines the planned research as well as containing some wider ‘thought pieces’ and views from in and around the Platform. If you would like to receive the newsletter direct then please email Jennifer Preston. 

The projects


Will be delivered by a consortium of 30 collaborating universities, research institutes, farming industry and environmental organisations led by NIAB, will:

  • Develop improved indicators and standardised methodologies for land managers and their advisers to measure the economic, environmental and social performance of farms
  • Identify Integrated farm management practices for the sustainable intensification of agriculture (at farm level).  Examples include practices to improve productivity, reduce costs, improve resource use efficiency, control pests and diseases, mitigate greenhouse gases and pollution and provide habitats for biodiversity.
  • Investigate ways of better communicating complex messages to farmers and propose innovative decision support approaches.

 SIP 2

Is led by the University of Exeter and will focus on a collaborative approach bringing agricultural, environmental and social scientists from 20 organisations together with farmers in seven landscape study areas to understand the collaborative actions that are required to achieve Sustainable Intensification on these scales.  SIP 2 will require an understanding of the spatial variation in land capability (for food production and other ecosystem services) and environmental risks, and the need for collaborative decision making between multiple farms and governance to achieve these outcomes.SIP 3Has been designed around a scoping study led by ADAS, and examined the behavioural responses of land managers and farmers to external drivers, investigated the influence of the food-supply chain on farm management and assessed market and non-market mechanisms to drive SI.Study landscapes and associated study farm locations.The majority of SIP 1 research will focus on 5 farm platforms. These are located at:

  • North Wyke and Duchy Future Farm
  • Henfaes
  • The Allerton Project (Loddington)
  • Nafferton (Newcastle University Farm)
  • Morley

Meanwhile, SIP 2 will investigate landscape-scale interactions in surrounding or nearby catchments:

  • Taw (Devon)
  • Conwy (Wales)
  • Upper Welland (East Midlands)
  • Nafferton (Northumberland)
  • Wensum and Yare (Norfolk)

What will be achieved?The planned £4.5M investment in SIP will develop more integrated and collaborative ways of funding, conducting and applying agricultural research around sustainable intensification.SIP 1 will aim to:

  • Establish and strengthen links between a wide variety of partners including researchers, farmers, supply chains and environmental organisations
  • Produce a solid base for research
  • Better quantify the outcomes of Integrated Farm Management techniques and produce stronger evidence that they contribute to sustainable farming.
  • Push the boundaries of current IFM practices and develop more innovative practices
  • Guide more farmers in adopting IFM
  • Establish better ways of measuring the impacts of specific practices as well as the overall change of approach and performance, through the development of improved indicators and integrated metrics

The SIP 2 project will also:

  • Develop a landscape typology to show land-use opportunities and risks in relation to sustainable intensification
  • Identify where coordinated action is required at a landscape scale to achieve sustainable intensification and design and test methods of collaborative working
  • Understand the social and economic constraints to collaboration and investigate mechanisms through which this can be encouraged
  • Design and test a sustainable intensification benchmarking system

How can I find out more?There are a range of opportunities to find out more about SIP

  • The project website is now live, access it here
  • The Rural Business School website will publicise details of all SIP activity happening in the south west, so keep an eye on the events pages and back on this page
  • The platform has a Twitter account @sipresearch

How can I benefit from using renewable energy?

  • Reduced energy bills
  • Ensuring the security of your energy supply
  • Sustainability
  • Reduced emissions of C02 and other greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming
  • Potential for additional income through subsidies paid for renewable electricity (Feed in Tariffs) and heat (Renewable Heat Incentive)
  • Read more about renewable energy

What do I need to consider?

  • Consider your energy use, what gets used and where
  • Wherever possible reduce your energy demand through energy efficiency measures before considering installing renewable technologies
  • Identify any opportunities or constraints to renewable energy on your site
  • Check with the local planning authority whether there are any planning issues
  • Seek independent advice
  • Speak to others who have already installed generating equipment
  • Choose technologies based on suitability and fitness for purpose rather than the promise of additional income
  • Get quotes from 3 installers (MCS accreditation is a condition for receiving FITs for installations up to 50kW, and RHI for installations of up to 45kW)

What are they?

  • A government financial incentive scheme to accelerate the implementation of renewable energy projects up to 5MW
  • Since their introduction on the 1st April 2010, there have been a series of reviews and subsequent changes
  • Since 1st April 2012 there has been reduced support for new solar PV installations with Total Installed Capacity (TIC) under 250kW and extensions to existing with an eligibility date on or after the 3rd March 2012. It also introduced requirements for FIT generators using solar PV to meet an energy efficiency requirement
  • Phases 2A and 2B of the comprehensive review of the Feed in Tariff are currently being consulted on.
  • For more information on FITs and to access key documents on the scheme please visit DECCís website

What sectors are supported?

  • The scheme is open to everyone
  • It provides a fixed tariff for every kWh of electricity produced which is guaranteed for 10-25 years
  • Payments are linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) and have been designed to give a 5-8% return on initial investment
  • There are varying tariffs depending on the type and scale of the technology
  • Read more here

What technologies are supported?

  • Anaerobic Digestion
  • Hydro
  • Micro Combined Heat and Power (CHP) up to 2kW
  • Solar PV
  • Wind

What are the tariffs?

  • The FIT scheme gives three financial benefits
  • A fixed payment for each kWh produced (generation tariff)
  • An additional payment for each unit exported to the grid (export tariff)
  • A reduction in the amount of electricity imported from the grid (avoided costs)
  • For information on the individual payments for different technologies at different levels please click here (correct April 2012).

What is it?

  • A government scheme that provides financial support to producers of renewable heat
  • All installations that were commissioned on or after 15th July 2009 will be able to apply for support providing they meet other eligibility criteria
  • Read more here

What sections are supported?

  • The RHI is being implemented in two stages. Initially only UK based industrial, commercial and public sector organisations will receive the payments
  • Domestic households will be included in the second phase, which is intended to be introduced in October 2012. In the meantime, householders can sign up to the RHI Premium Payment Scheme

What technologies are supported?

  • Biomass boilers
  • Solar Thermal
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • On site biogas combustion
  • Deep geothermal
  • Injection of biomethane into the grid
  • Energy from municipal solid waste

What are the opportunities for growers?

  • Of the technologies and fuels supported by the RHI, biomass in particular represents a significant opportunity for horticultural businesses as they have a year round heat demand pattern that gives good equipment utilisation
  • Although biomass installations are more complex and expensive than traditional oil or gas, they achieve high energy savings and a relatively quick payback

What are the tariffs?

  • The scheme will be administered by Ofgem, and will be delivered in the form of payments on a quarterly basis following submission of the required information
  • To access the table of tariffs please click here
  • For more information on the scheme you can read the scheme document, the frequently asked questions, or if you have specific queries you can email the RHI team at DECC

Why is Carbon accounting important?

  • Land use and agriculture contributes about 7% of the UKís total Greenhouse Gas emissions
  • Carbon accounting enables farmers and land managers to estimate the emissions of carbon dioxide (C02), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20) produced from farm operations and land, as well as estimate the carbon locked up (sequestered) through soil and woodland management
  • For more information about Carbon accounting on your farm, continue to read the Farming Futures factsheet

Moving towards low Carbon Farming

  • One project working with the SWARM Hub to help support farmers to use continuous improvements to reduce C footprints of their farm
  • To find out how to get involved please visit the project page

Clear about Carbon

  • This project aims to develop, test and deliver innovative approaches to the level of Carbon literacy in Cornwall
  • To find out more about this project please click here to go to the projectís website

Carbon footprinting calculators

Carbon footprinting calculators are used to carry out an on-farm carbon assessment. They are a useful way to assess what is happening on your farm and to look for ways to reduce costs and run the farm more efficiently whilst cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

To read brief reviews about 4 farm carbon calculators click here