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Chairman’s Christmas message

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As 2019 hurtles towards an end – having, as with every year, flown by too quickly to deliver my long list of aspirations – it has, amid political turmoil at home, delivered, internationally, probably the largest public mood swing towards our planet, our future, and the threat of climate change.

The “Crankdom” of climate change was the founding driver for Terravesta, and is what has driven our research-led business development ever since. Whether it is the persuasive gift of Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough, or the spread of terrifying life experiences from the wild fires of Australia and California to the flood devastation of Yorkshire, the Midlands and the flooded farmland of Lincolnshire – the reality of climate change has sunk in as reality for all of us, and “Crankdom” now lies with those in denial.

Net Zero 2050, seen as a global necessity, and now a legally binding commitment in the UK, challenges us all to re-address the way we live, our material needs and the way we all view the trappings of status and success. But this process is not about harking back in time, or returning to our caves, it is about using our brilliance and ingenuity to live in harmony with our planet, environment and other living species rather than in exploitation of them.

To highlight this, Terravesta has proudly launched the first commercially bred Miscanthus variety, Terravesta Athena™, at Cereals 2019. Addressing the acknowledged weaknesses of the naturally occurring sterile hybrid Miscanthus giganteus, Athena is the first product of an exciting breeding programme that has been running since 2012, which will be delivering numerous new varieties in the years to come, with traits suited to specific climates, regions and markets.

Our long-term commitment to science, and the contacts with partners in many different countries, has delivered new and exciting commercial developments and relationships in a range of product sectors over the last 12 months, as well as delivering real policy traction in Whitehall. Miscanthus area expansion, to a potential of up to 1.4 million ha in the UK, is well embedded in government strategy for biomass delivery necessary to achieve Net Zero 2050.

Closer to home, and abroad, the Terravesta “family” continues to grow. With sadness we waved goodbye to Jacob, Sam and Lynn in 2019, but with joy welcome Jason, Ben, Chloe, Elfie and James, as well Anatolii in Moldova and Alicia in the Canaries. We have opened an office in Aberystwyth also. Our grower “family” continues to expand also, as more farmers see the opportunity and benefits of planting perennial biomass crops for a growing bio-economy.

Terravesta has strong business interests in Europe, but like it or not, last week the country once again voted emphatically for Brexit. This is likely to see, during 2020, the reintroduction of the Agriculture Bill, setting out a new path for agriculture, with an emphasis on delivery of public services in terms of addressing climate change, enhancing natural capital, pollution and quality of soil, air and water, flood mitigation, and public health and well-being. We see this as an opportunity for those wishing to embrace it, rather than a threat.

Miscanthus offers a strong solution in many of these areas and, irrespective of the politics, being a low input perennial, massively reduces farming risk in the face of the increasing climatic volatility of climate change.

Undoubtedly the weather contributed to us generating a huge level of interest at the Farm Business Innovation Show, where, much to our surprise and delight, we were the Environmental Winner in the Farm Business Innovation Awards.

Addressing climate requires every individual to act to our greatest ability. In this sense those involved in land are key.

2020 is where Net Zero 2050 has to start. The bio-economy will be an important element and requires fast growing feedstocks to enable it to deliver. Terravesta has both the products and the know how to deliver this – for the grower, for the end user, for the environment and for the fulfilment of policy objectives.

Let’s make 2020 the start of a brighter, more secure future – for all, together.