The Connected Countryside Summit


CLA Summit Speakers


Members gathered at the Cavendish Conference Centre in the heart of London to talk about how technology is changing all aspects of running a rural business. Often farms and estates are seen, unfairly, as the last bastions of traditional working practices, but what delegates heard at the CLA’s Connectivity Summit was just how much investment innovation and positive disruption are taking place across our business.

The Visionaries

Toby Reich, VP for sales at Kisanhub the crop intelligence platform, opened the day. He challenged all the delegates to embrace the disruption that technology can provide their business, to think carefully about what the right investments are and fold them into the business strategy.

Tim Hopkin, founder of The Land App, explained how investment in digitisation of land mapping, to create a ‘single source of truth’ for all activities taking place on land can have a transformational impact on the ability to manage a farm or estate business. 

Farmdrop’s Ben Pugh provided an inspirational insight into how his business is changing the food supply chain. It is providing a means for farmers to sell their food direct to consumers, cutting out the supermarkets. The result a farmer being able to secure 70% of the value share for the products they produce.

CLA Summit hall


The Innovators

In this session speakers showed how technology is changing the way members do business across three very different aspects of members’ businesses – farming, estate management and marketing.

Keith Norman, technical director at leading farm management company Velcourt, talked the conference through the innovations that are changing farming. He explained how technology is making it possible to apply detailed data analysis to day-to-day farming decisions from targeting soil compaction to precision crop protection. He also showed how biosensors are being used to detect the spread of disease like potato blight in real time. His message is that seismic change is here, it is increasingly attainable, but that farmers must think carefully about the best ways to access its benefits.

Mark Coombs, estate manager at the Brudenell Estate, introduced the idea of the paperless estate office. He explained how cost effectively he and his team have taken all the information about the Brudenell Estates Assets and captured them on easy to use software that can be employed to manage the business and make decisions. The use of drone imagery and virtual maps can be used to discuss planning developments, get competitive insurance valuations and make maintenance and other investment decisions.

Jonathan Fish, marketing manager of the Chatsworth Estate, concluded the session by explaining how Chatsworth had embraced digital marketing to build and further its brand, to sell events direct to customers and build loyalty. His simple principles showed how rural businesses from the smallest to the very big can embrace digital marketing without fear.

CLA Summit hall opening


Digital Marketing 

CLA Deputy President Mark Bridgeman led this workshop, looking at how to deliver excellence in digital marketing. Sarah Callander Beckett, owner of Combermere Abbey, provided a masterclass in how she had applied her many years’ experience in international marketing to the invigoration of her family estate. She compared herself to David, following the ‘Chatsworth Goliath’, but showed how well thought through and careful investment in brand, website and targeted marketing is sustaining her business. 

Simon Law, VP of booking agent, gave delegates a detailed roadmap of how to navigate through the complex world of booking agents and marketing platforms for self-catering and holiday businesses. He explained how the market is evolving from the days of brochures and advanced bookings to online, varied and last minute bookings.

In the discussion the delegates talked about the importance of investing in quality photography as the centrepiece of effective marketing, especially the importance of experiential photos rather than straight picture of buildings and landscapes. As well as this they talked through the advantages and pitfalls of engaging with customers and reviewers online.

CLA Summit crowd


Find the full programme for the day here

Find the presentations from the day here


Speakers included: 



Mark Bridgeman
CLA Deputy President


Sarah Callander Beckett
Owner, Combermere Abbey

Ben Pugh
Managing Director, Farmdrop

Dan Jolly
Co-Founder, Yagro

Libby Bateman
CLA Rural Adviser

Mark Coombs
Manager, Brudenell Estate

Tim Hopkin
Founder, The Land App

Jonathan Fish
Marketing Manager, Chatsworth Estate

Ben Briggs
Editor, Farmers Guardian





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Event Region: 
South East