FARMERS and agribusinesses are being given a rare chance to explore an operational research farm - and to have their say on where scientists should be focusing their efforts to support the future of agriculture.

For the first-time ever, N8 AgriFood, a northern-based food resilience research programme, is throwing open the gates to three of its university farms in an effort to strengthen links with local farming communities.

N8 AgriFood operates across the eight most research-intensive universities in the north of England, with scientists investigating all areas of the food chain, including agriculture.

The farm open days will see local farmers and agricultural businesses find out about research projects that may help increase productivity and efficiencies in their work, as well as giving them the opportunity to contribute towards and help shape future projects.

Topics will cover soil and plant health, agri-tech and robotics, livestock health, including diagnostics and breeding, and working with industry.

Sally Howlett, one of N8 AgriFood’s knowledge exchange fellows based at the University of York, who is co-ordinating the open days, said: “As a research programme, we want to create a network of farmers who are interested in working as equal partners in research with us.

“To help build those relationships, we want to give farmers the chance to look over the hedge and see what goes on at a research farm.

“By coming along to the open days guests will be able to see some of the results from trials that have been carried out by N8 on the farms.

“We would also like to see farmers share their areas of concern with us, and help shape the areas of farming and agriculture that we look at in the future.”

The first open day is being held at the University of Liverpool’s facilities on Tuesday, May 14.

After convening at the University’s Leahurst Campus, the day begins at the 200-acre dairy facility Woodpark Farm, before heading over to Ness Heath farm after lunch where the topic shifts to beef and sheep.

Areas of research being presented include fluke control in cattle, sheep parasite control, and robotics for lameness diagnosis in beef cattle, among others.

On Friday, June 21, the University of Leeds will then host an open day at its Spen Farm facility, with a focus on arable and soil health.

Plans for farming systems research will be discussed, as well as soil health and smart agri-systems.

The aim is that, after the open days, researchers at N8 AgriFood will have a list of topic areas identified by farmers where they would like academics to work with them on co-developing research solutions.

To register for either event or for more information, visit