Savills

This interview details Savills, a company based in the UK. The interview is with Joe Lloyd, analyst Savills rural research.

Source: Savills

What is the origin story of Savills?

Founded in the UK in 1855, Alfred Savill (1829 - 1905) set up business at 27 Rood Lane, EC3, as 'Savill and Son' providing advice to owners of rural landed estates. Today, Savills is one of the world's leading property agents. Our experience and expertise spans the globe, with over 700 offices across the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Savills rural client-base in the UK? 

Biodiversity decline, climate change, inflation, geopolitical disruption. It’s an incredibly unsettled phase in world history and land is unavoidably caught up in it. Savills rural clients in the UK are increasingly pursuing alternative land uses for a number of reasons such as a way to reduce harmful practices or as a means to find solutions to a growing number of challenges. 

To accommodate these increasing number of land use drivers, including food, energy, materials and nature recovery; as a nation we need to use our land intelligently, sustainably and fairly. Part of that will be up to policy, another part will be left to market forces and another part to innovation such as vertical farming and agricultural technology. We know these technologies can help our rural clients to produce more food from a smaller footprint but could it also reduce costs for land managers? Could a way be found to simultaneously produce food, energy and promote biodiversity? These are just some of the questions our rural business owner clients regularly challenge us to help them find the answers to.

What is unique about Savills compared to competitors? 

The company has a huge breadth of reach and an equally huge depth of knowledge and connections all across the world. In the same day, I have talked to a colleague about the hardware necessary to grow medicinal cannabis in a vertical farm, before talking to another colleague about the legalities of the process. I have talked to colleagues in the USA about modular vertical farms in office buildings and connected with journalists in the Middle East to talk about renewable energy. We imagine the most revolutionary things are happening in other places around the world, but colleagues in the UK are still exploring new markets like natural capital or medicinal cannabis. It’s an incredible network throughout the company and beyond, which every colleague and client can access. 

What are some trends Savills rural is predicting in the indoor farming space in 2024 and beyond? 

Experts are realising that modern science still has a lot of work to do to catch up with millennia-worth of natural evolution. Replicating, scaling and utilising the biochemical processes that the natural world has harnessed since before humans existed will demand vast quantities of resource that we simply do not have. Flavourings, medicines and other chemicals are already extracted from farmed crops the world over. Scientists are turning more and more to plants and organisms to synthesise the chemicals and materials the modern world demands.

Unfortunately, certain useful chemicals are only produced under precise conditions, conditions that indoor farming can replicate at scale. Given the difficulty of producing such chemicals and materials via other means, they are inherently valuable and so provide a means for vertical farming to create high value products to offset the high costs of controlling the environment so precisely. This form of high-value cropping is one way in which indoor farming can overcome financial obstacles, particularly in nations where indoor farming is seen as less of a necessity due to food or water security concerns. Moreover, vertical farming can produce these chemicals while catering to increasing consumer demand for sustainable products rather than from petrochemical origins.

What are some trends Savills rural is predicting in the larger agritech landscape? 

As I’ve alluded to, land is being used for more and more reasons. Agritech is responding in three ways:

  1. Finding ways to make traditional land use itself more sustainable. Even regenerative agriculture can still rely heavily on herbicides to control weeds but agritech could change that. For example, using a combination of robotics, AI and existing, non-chemical weeding methods.
  2. Increasing the yield of commodities, be that food, fibre, fuel or something else. There will be a ceiling to exactly how much a crop can grow in a certain patch of land but ag tech is a way to break through that ceiling. Indoor farming removes and changes the nature of the ‘land’ that crop grows in. Equally genetic editing could change that crop to yield more.
  3. Creating solutions to enable these new kinds of land use. Take carbon credits. If they are to be used to tackle climate change in any meaningful way, there needs to be a way to quantify the carbon sequestered across vast swathes of different kinds of land. Agritech solutions could be anything from a soil sampling kit to AI analysis of satellite imagery.

Given this approach is still in its infancy and the rural sector still has some way to go to achieve its new ambitions, it is fair to expect these three strands to persist for some time to come.

How can people connect with you or learn more about Savills rural?

I would recommend subscribing to our Landscope mailing list (https://www.linkedin.com/newsletters/7120790333377912834/) to keep up with all of our research and stay informed about all manner of rural property news. We have a rural LinkedIn page (https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/savills-rural-projects/) which I’d encourage people to connect to. Readers can also head over to our rural knowledge portal (https://www.savills.co.uk/landing-pages/rural-knowledge-portal.aspx\) on the website and read some of our recent research from all sectors. 

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