Sustainable Intensification Project

What is the SIP?

The Sustainable Intensification Research Platform (SIP) is now completed. Outputs from the Project are available via these pages pages. SIP was a multi-partner research programme comprising farmers, industry experts, academia, environmental organisations, policymakers and other stakeholders.



Funded by Defra and the Welsh Government, the platform explored the opportunities and risks of Sustainable Intensification (SI) from a range of perspectives and landscape scales across England and Wales.

The platform comprised three linked and transdisciplinary research projects:

  • SIP 1
    'Integrated Farm Management for improved economic, environmental and social performance'
  • SIP 2
    'Opportunities and risks for farming and the environment at landscape scales'

The above two projects ran for three and a half years to November 2017, and investigated ways to increase farm productivity, reduce environmental impacts and increase the benefits that agricultural land provides to society.

  • SIP 3
    A six-month scoping study on 'The influence of external drivers and actors on the sustainability and productivity of English and Welsh farming' was also completed and is available here.

Study Areas

A network of five study farms and seven specific landscape areas was central to the research of the SIP. These were chosen from a range of farming sectors, systems and situations across England and Wales. The study farms are each established centres of research, and their work in related areas continues beyond the end of the SIP Project (see links below).  

Study Farms:

Landscape areas:

  • Taw (Devon)
  • Conwy (Wales)
  • Upper Welland (East Midlands)
  • Nafferton area (Northumberland)
  • Wensum and Yare (Norfolk)
  • Avon (Hampshire)
  • Eden (Cumbria)


SIP Partners

SIP had a large number of partners and sub-contractors. Read more »

SIP Objectives

SIP worked to develop ways of funding and conducting collaborative research for applying methods of sustainable intensification in agriculture.

The platform:

  • Developed a community of practice - with stronger links between scientists, farmers, economists, eco-services, policymakers and other environmental and agricultural stakeholders
  • Utilised study farms to host research on farming systems and land management
  • Created a data platform to enable access to the wealth of data collected within the SIP projects for researchers, policymakers and other interested parties

Read more about the objectives of the 3 SIP Projects »

Key principles within SIP

A holistic approach that examined SI from various perspectives and timeframes at farm, landscape, supply chain and market levels.

SIP produced tools to help individuals and groups to identify SI opportunities that exist and are appropriate to them, as well as balance different objectives and priorities in their delivery.

Policy background

Food, farming and environmental policy are interconnected. Whilst not a policy goal per se, SI can help deliver Defra priorities such as growing the rural economy, leading the world in food and farming, and improving the environment.

Key Defra policy drivers that led to the creation of the SIP included:

  • Meeting the challenge of feeding a growing population sustainably in an era of climate change and greater competition for resources
  • Better integration of land management policies, which deliver coherent messages and improve the targeting of advice and incentive schemes to farmers
  • Stimulating the uptake of new technologies to improve farm competitiveness.

Whilst a large amount of information about the economic, environmental and social performance of farming exists, these tend to be very specific areas of research. The integration of knowledge to inform land management decisions tends to be done by farmers or advisers themselves. The SIP explored ways of integrating current knowledge of systems-based approaches to support, farmers, land managers, the agri-food industry and policy-makers balance and maximise best performance within these areas.