In May 2021, our farming team in Kent introduced a new, innovative 3-metre growing bed system to grow its crops – spinach, red chard, Bulls Blood and lettuce – which has created amazing results. This growing system, versus the traditional 1.85m bed system, helps to produce a high-quality crop whilst providing benefits to the environment.

Bespoke machinery has been developed specifically for this system including cultivation, sowing and harvesting equipment. The cultivation tractor is equipped with implements that allow for seedbed preparation and sowing in one pass – this reduces both energy and labour. The harvester was designed to carry a trailer on the back lifting it away from the bed to prevent soil damage. The many benefits include a reduction in soil compaction and erosion, which in turn improves water retention, carbon storage, and nutrient cycling. This results in less land run-off, increased water efficiency in irrigation and a reduction of inputs. The 3m bed system also makes more efficient use of the land, with an increase of 22% land use.

This season the team implemented a different field layout for the irrigation and spray beds. In the picture below there are two 1.85m beds in between the 3m beds for the sole purpose of being able to sow on them – therefore maximizing land use.

Kent farm manager, Gary Owtram comments: “The 3m system is very effective which we can see from the photos. Using our bed former and precision 3m drill we have very even germination throughout the various crops. Also, we’re able to form the beds and sow at the same time (single pass) which means we are more time-efficient.”

A great example of innovation from the team at Abbey Farm in Kent.