The NFU’s Farmvention competition, aimed at encouraging children to think about the ways they can help farmers look after the environment and tackle climate change, welcomed nine young winners to the House of Commons. Danusia Osiowy reports.
School children from across the country proudly showcased their climate-smart farming inventions to MPs in the House of Commons last week.
From more than 400 entries submitted by students across the country, nine winners of the NFU’s Farmvention competition were chosen to present their ideas to MPs, educational leaders and farming professionals, after fulfilling the brief to design an invention which would support farmers to become carbon neutral by 2040 and fight climate change.
Pupils had four areas of development to choose from: technology; soil and plant health; renewable energy; and sustainable food.
They were then asked to utilise their science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills and knowledge to develop practical tools for sustainable farming and help the industry be net zero by 2040.
Innovations from the children, who were aged five to 14 years old, included a smart irrigation system, a vertical farming system to reduce water use, a carbon recovery and soil injector, drones to help with flooding and an all-season greenhouse.
Welcoming guests at the parliamentary event, NFU president Minette Batters said the focus on climate change was not just on the farmers who deliver sustainable food, but the creatives and scientists who come up with the new technologies which enable us to do it.
She said: “For me, the best thing was seeing each project demonstrating a real understanding of the needs of farming and food production, as well as an impressive element of creativity, innovation, scientific knowledge and skill.
“It highlights what teachers who have used our resources already know – that farming is a fantastic way to teach STEM subjects in a practical and meaningful way.”
Climate Superheroes winners
The nine winners were named the 2021 Climate Superheroes:
- Alfie Roberts, from Shoreham Village School, invented a waste-saving app
- The Edenham Home Edders, from Bourne Tuition, designed drones to help solve the problem of flooding in Lincolnshire
- Gregory Laycock-Hammond, from Yatton Junior School, investigated and built a greenhouse for all seasons
- Class 2 at Wark Primary School invented the Sensor Sprinkler 2021 to reduce water waste
- Dean Araj, Pip Bimson and Ben Sullivan, from City of London Freemens School, designed a vertical farming system to enable crops to be grown in salt marshes
- Aryan Soni, from Wootton Park School, invented a ‘smart irrigation’ system
- Millie Nabarro, from Thomas’s Clapham, developed a carbon labelling system for British flowers
Samay Kachalia, from Merchant Taylors’ School, developed The C-Shift – a carbon recovery and soil injection device
- Roland Christopher, from King’s School, investigated and designed an Arduino-based lighting system for growing crops
VICTORIA PRENTIS - Farming Minister
"Farmvention is a perfect example of how STEM subjects can be applied to help tackle real issues facing farmers."
Millie Nabarro, carbon footprint labels
Millie Nabarro heard about the competition in a school meeting and said it seemed ‘a good thing to do’.
The 10-year-old pupil designed a set of carbon footprint labels to demonstrate how much carbon dioxide is in flowers and to help shoppers make better decisions when buying their floral favourites.
She said: “Thirty-two British alstroemeria flowers have far less carbon than ones which are imported from Europe.
“The labels work out how much they use and are designed to work like the traffic light system on food labels.
“It is quite surprising that 50 years ago almost all flowers in the UK were British and yet these days 90 per cent of the flowers we buy come from Holland.
“We need to support British farmers and buying British is better for our environment and for our farmers. It helps them with profit, so they have a higher chance of success.
“It would be nice to see some farmers visit our school and tell us what they do.”
Samay Kachalia, The C-Shift
Twelve-year-old Samay Kachalia devised The C-Shift, a device to extract carbon dioxide from non-arable soil, separate the elements and transfer pure carbon into soil.
He used the school’s design technology workshop to devise a model which was functional, using 3D printing, soldering and assembling techniques.
Samay spoke with farmers who he was put in touch with via NFU Education and continued to research his concept and understand their challenges.
He said: “Every person needs to do their own bit to help end our climate crisis. It is my generation which will be key to helping to solve and protect the future.
“I would love to invite local farmers to come into school and tell us what they do, so more of us can be aware of how special the farming industry is.
“Being a farmer isn’t just standing with a pitchfork in a field – it’s being a key part of our society.”
JO CHURCHILL - Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation
"These initiatives are so important in highlighting positive impacts future generations can make."
We caught up with Jennie Devine, education manager at NFU Education, to find out more about one of their most popular educational initiatives.
Q What is Farmvention?
A Farmvention (when farming meets invention) is a national STEM competition for primary and lower secondary aged schoolchildren aged between five and 15. Children are challenged to invent a solution to a range of problems faced by farmers and growers.
Q Why did you launch it?
A Farmvention was launched three years ago to challenge children to think about the challenges faced by British farmers and growers and use their creativity to invent solutions to these problems. About 6,000 children have taken part since it began.
Q How is the curriculum integrated?
A The teaching resources link to the national curriculum to enable teachers to deliver the content they need to through the context of agriculture. The resources were accredited by the Association for Science Education to demonstrate they were of high quality and encourage teachers to use them.
Q Is there a prize?
A Prizes for winners include a class farm visit and the opportunity to present ideas as part of our Farmvention winners’ showcase at the House of Commons.
Q Children can choose to work with a number of farmers on your website. How does this happen?
A We worked with Hi Impact Media to create four virtual 3D tours to enable children to digitally visit three NFU members’ farms and the Small Robot Company workshop. In the videos, the farmers and engineers explain how they are fighting climate change on their farms.
Q How can farmers support you with future development?
A Farmvention will be changing again next year and we will be pairing up participating schools with farmers so they can ask them their questions directly.
If anyone would like to get involved, keep an eye on our social media for how to get involved (@NFUEducation).