Marks and Spencer has announced a three-year project with an agri-tech firm to help farmers better manage pollinators while boosting crop yields.
The collaboration will see two farms, Plumford in Kent and G’s Growers in Cambridgeshire, install in-field sensors for three years, developed by start-up AgriSound.
It will allow the farms, which supply M&S, to track the number of pollinators in real-time and target specific interventions for improving numbers.
York-based AgriSound have developed the specialist listening devices, which combine acoustic technology and environmental sensors to monitor the density of key pollinators.
The devices collect and send data via mobile data, with users able to see results via a smartphone or web app.
At Plumford in Kent, the sensors will be located in a new orchard, to help assess the effectiveness of different densities of wildflowers in attracting pollinators.
Meanwhile, G’s Growers will be placing the sensors in hedgerows, as well as pollen and nectar mix and wild bird seed mix, to evaluate the relative value of these different habitats in attracting pollinators at different times of the year.
Chris Elworthy, director of Plumford said: “We’re keen to see the impact of different wildflower densities in the orchard alleys on activity.
"With so many current environmental challenges, it’s now more important than ever to understand pollinators better.
"We’re delighted to be taking part in the project and excited to see what beneficial outcomes can be achieved by these relatively simple measures.?
"If we can attract even more pollinators to our orchards, this will be a real success.”
The collaboration is part of the retailer's five-year Farming with Nature programme, launched last year, to support its farmers to become more resilient to environmental challenges.
As part of the programme, M&S has partnered with LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to strengthen pollinator-friendly farming practices.
The company has also collaborated with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, FERA and Kings Frontier to test different wildflower seed mixes on a number of farms.