25 January 2018
Trees on livestock farms

AFINET meeting - Shropshire

30 January 2018
Intercropping field lab

An opportunity to develop research questions, identify synergies and determine what to trial

19 December 2017
ORC Bulletin 123 on its way!

And Bulletin 122 available for free download

11 December 2017
Soil Farmer of the Year competition

Entries open for 2018

7 December 2017
Intercropping opportunities

Farmers invited to take part in diverse cropping project to increase yields


Full project title:

Innovative and sustainable intensification of integrated food and non-food systems to develop climate-resilient agro-ecosystems in Europe



Contract period:

1 March 2016 to 29 February 2019

Project webpage:


Main funder:


Contact staff at ORC:

Dr. Jo Smith

Other staff involved:

Sally Westaway, Laurence Smith, Samantha Mullender, Kevin Waldie

Project aims

Integrated food and non-food systems (IFNS) are systems in which trees, crops and livestock components are integrated in different ways at different scales (plot-field-farm) and include traditional and innovative agroforestry. The specific objectives are to:

  • assess resource use efficiency and design innovative and cost-effective IFNS for optimum productivity;
  • develop sustainability metrics to assess agronomic productivity and environmental performance and
  • valorization of the woody components, residual waste and co-products into high value bio-energy carriers and bio-products.

To achieve the objectives, SustainFARM has adopted an innovative case-study approach, whereby locally relevant IFNS are already identified, to work in close collaboration with the local end-users of the technology such as farmers, advisory services and policy makers. By involving the end-users and other stakeholders from the start of the project activity, we will co-generate technology, relevant at the local scale to address productivity issues and enhance valorisation of the unused, residual and co-products. ORC will focus on two case study farms; the traditional hedgerows and innovative silvopastoral systems on Elm Farm, Newbury, and the traditional hedgerows and innovative silvoarable systems at Wakelyns Agroforestry, Suffolk.

SustainFARM will investigate the economic and environmental performance of the range of locally relevant IFNS across several agri-climatic zones of Europe and design innovative IFNS systems, which are resilient and climate-smart. To improve the cost-effectiveness, different means of valorising the residual and co-products (woody components and residual wet olive cake etc.) and for multiple uses (bedding material, compost, bioenergy etc.) will be demonstrated at two SME facilities in UK and Italy and the knowledge generated will be shared through the stakeholder platforms. Value chains and life cycle analysis of the new bio-products (torrified pellets, bio-energy and food supplements etc.) will be carried out to assess the environmental footprint of the valorisation processes.

The best practices and innovative methods will be synthesized into a decision support tool (DST) to enable informed decision making by farmers, advisory services and policy makers. To promote the adoption of IFNS in Europe, SustainFARM will communicate and disseminate through stakeholder-oriented media and tools to facilitate knowledge exchange, based on the scientific and practical agronomic knowledge generated in the project and the needs of the various stakeholder groups.

The expected results are:

  • assessment of locally relevant IFNS;
  • innovative means for maximum value addition of woody components and residual waste and co-products and
  • decision support tool for informed decision making by farmers, advisory services and policy makers.

ORC's role

ORC will lead work to develop a list of agronomic, environmental and economic indicators to evaluate the sustainability of IFNS. We will contribute to the network of IFNS study sites and provide data on the following IFNS systems: a) traditional boundary hedgerows with livestock; b) an innovative alley cropping silvopastoral system with short rotation coppice and livestock; c) traditional boundary hedgerows with arable and vegetable crops and d) an innovative alley cropping silvoarable system with SRC and arable and vegetable crops. In addition, ORC will also coordinate the formation of the stakeholder platforms linked to each study site. ORC will work closely with two SMEs for valorisation of low quality woody biomass into high energy pellets through torrefaction.

Current progress highlights

ORC hosted a workshop in May 2016 to investigate ways to increase the value and quality of material coming from boundary hedges - for use as a fuel, as well as other uses or products such as compost, livestock bedding and tree fodder. Read the write-up in ORC Bulletin 120 here

A workshop based around the journey from ‘Tree to Heat’ was held at Wakelyns Agroforestry in January 2017. Read reports and see videos here

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Project leader and partners

  • Co-ordinator: Prof John Porter and Dr Bhim Bahadur Ghaley, University of Copenhagen
  • Department of Geography, Philipps-University Marburg (PUM), Germany
  • Universidad de Cordoba (UCO), Spain
  • University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca (UASVM), Romania
  • National Research Council (CNR), Italy
  • Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation - State Research Institute (IUNG-PIB), Poland

Previous relevant work


All sources of funding

FACCE SURPLUS Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture for Food and Non-Food Systems ERA-NET, funded in the UK by Defra.