Bridget Emmett – Moving over carbon soil compaction is the real issue in agriculture

A conversation with Bridget Emmett, British ecologist, Professor and Science Area Head for the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, about the EU Mission Soil, what is the role of technology, remote sensing, digital twins, etc, and what role should and could policy play.

From the strengths and limitations of satellite technology in soil health monitoring to the groundbreaking potential of digital twins, in this episode Bridget delves into the critical issue of soil compaction and the role of advanced machinery, robotics, and sensors in preventing it. We’ll also examine the intricate balance between farming practices and their environmental impacts, the transition to plant-based diets, and the concept of a circular economy in agriculture.


This podcast is part of the AI 4 Soil Health project which aims to help farmers and policy makers by providing new tools powered by AI to monitor and predict soil health across Europe. For more information visit


Bridget highlights the importance of working with soil as a living entity rather than treating it as a medium or resource to be exploited.

”For most people, the idea that soil is alive is just not really there. And yet we know approximately 25% of global biodiversity lives in the soil. So, I like the fact that the more and more you go into it, you are actually exposed to more and more. You can just look at it and say, it’s just mad, but what have you? But whenever you start to study it, it just opens up whole new worlds of things that we need to understand. And we do understand a lot. And that’s one of the frustrations. I think we do need to have new science and technology and understand them more, and I have that side of life. But we also know quite a lot already. And we just need to make those things happen to protect them and restore the soil. […] We really need to make that translation into making a difference out there because we know we’re in trouble. We’ve just forgotten about soil for so long that we now have work to do to get it back to full health.” Bridget Emmett


The importance of predictability in farming, working with nature for consistent yields.

Some amazing farmers and land managers are already getting the idea that it isn’t just a medium. It is an alive thing, and if we work with it, it can help us.

”I think what particularly farmers doing regenerative agriculture are understanding is that if you take a step back, and that’s a huge risk to take if it’s your livelihood, then if you do more rotations, more mixtures, building legumes into your system, give a bit of space for nature to allow natural predators to happen, soil can actually reduce your costs over time and also increase the stability of your yield. So, one of the things I’ve taught farmers is that overall production, of course, is important. But the predictability of the yield you’re going to get is really important.”

Bridget Emmett

”What I’m hoping is that more and more farmers can be supported, and taking that transition to working with nature, kind of put some people off, but just working with the natural processes rather than just trying to circumvent them with the plough and fertilizers. That’s what I think many of us are trying to achieve here.” Bridget Emmett


Bridget talks about the importance of peer-to-peer learning in farming clusters, supported by high-quality advice.

”Peer-to-peer learning does really happen. So, creating those farming clusters so that people can learn together, supported by really high-quality advice, I think really matters. So, for example, if you go into herbal lays, there’s quite a lot of things that, I mean, you have to do a whole system approach on your farm about how you manage your animals, how soon you can put them on the land, how quickly you need to take them off for the winter. There’s quite a lot in that space over and above us, just saying that perhaps herbal lays are good for soil and good for more resilient stuff. There’s then, well, how do I manage that to make it work?” Bridget Emmett


Bridget advocates for peer-to-peer learning and practical solutions that work within the farm system, rather than relying on top-down approaches.

”’The main thing is about communication. So, I think we’re all failing at the moment. Because there can be a bit of a top-down approach from the government trying to say, we know what’s right, and we’re going to pay you to do this, rather than… I think we’ve got a gap where we really need advisors and people to go onto the farms and sort of say, so for this farm, what’s needed. What would work with you? And some of the governments are trying to do that, to try and find the options that we know work. They’re not overselling things that don’t work; they are actually proposing things that work. But that would work within the farm system for that location. And with the resources that that farmer actually has, because every farm is different.” Bridget Emmett

”So, my big messages to the government are only fund things that actually work. And don’t keep funding things that we just know don’t really deliver at scale. And the second is that when you’re trying to bring these new schemes in, we need to do it together; we need to do it in partnership with the farmers rather than just top down. […] But if the government wants to influence this, we really need to get these public payment schemes right, support them, and work in partnership with green finance, rather than people just giving up on the public schemes. And just going with green finance, which unfortunately sometimes can be just about chasing one thing, which is, at the moment, very often carbon.” Bridget Emmett


Koen and Bridget also talked about:

  • Using technology, including satellites and digital twins, to support sustainable farming practices and monitor soil health
  • Challenges in understanding and analysing satellite data for investors and professionals
  • Funding for regenerative agriculture and climate change resilience




Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

This work has received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee [grant numbers 10053484, 1005216, 1006329].

This work has received funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).


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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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