The Heart of the South West (HotSW) covers Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay within South West England. The region has a huge variety of agricultural landscape from fertile arable and dairy lowlands to the remote uplands of Dartmoor and Exmoor. The region is pre-eminent in the UK for its dairy and cider apple production, with over 25% of the UK’s dairy cow population, and a highly diversified range of produce including cider brandy, cheeses and chillies, plus the UK’s leading organic veg-box scheme.
Highly diverse soils, climates, biodiversity and protected landscapes, combined with research and training capabilities from its Universities, Colleges and research institutes have shaped the nature of agriculture and Agri-Tech within the region. A significant proportion (37%) of Somerset and Devon is associated with grazing pasture, dairy farming (18%) and the production of cereals (20%). The Dartmoor and Exmoor uplands concentrate on rearing sheep, cattle and ponies.
The region also has a significant forestry sector. In recent years significant farm diversification has taken place, including vineyards, flowers, organic vegetables, biofuel crops and specialist operations such as aquaculture.
Total farming income in the South West increased by 5% between 2013 and 2017 to £616 million. Agri-Tech is a key theme in the LEP’s Local Industrial Strategy linked to automation, digital and Artificial Intelligence and was worth £234m in 2016. Regionally it is forecast to grow by over 25% by 2026, and forestry by 24%, by 2026. Agriculture, Agri-Tech and forestry together employ over 31,000 people in HotSW.