Eastern AgriGate Research Hub, a new research centre dedicated to reducing crop and food waste and improving resource use efficiency in the horticultural and fresh produce supply chains has been opened by George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences and Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire.
Speaking at the event Mr Freeman said:
“Building connections between the UK’s world-class science base and agri-businesses is a central pillar to our Agri-Tech Strategy to help farmers produce more food, with less land and less environmental impact.
“Drawing on the East of England’s strengths in food and farming, the Eastern AgriGate Research Hub will give businesses access to the facilities, skills and expertise needed to develop pioneering new technologies that will reduce crop wastage and boost productivity for food producers across the country.”
The Eastern AgriGate Research Hub, based at Hasse Fen near Soham and managed by NIAB, is a well-equipped field station, carrying out commercial scale research to increase productivity and reduce crop wastage before produce reaches the processor and retailer.
It has been built with £600,000 of growth initiative funding from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, through the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative. Chairman Mark Reeve, said: “There are at least 69 other farming-based enterprises just within a 20 mile radius of the site; 46 businesses of those are directly allied to primary production and 20 are linked through the business supply chain.
“By accessing this field station, businesses can carry out commercial scale research to find practical solutions to the crop wastage issues that are challenging the industry. We are therefore pleased to have been able to provide funding to develop this new facility and look forward to seeing the results of work carried out here in the future.”
NIAB Project Leader Dr Effie Mutasa-Göttgens comments that WRAP UK estimates that 16% of all food waste occurs before it arrives on retailers’ shelves.
“Led by NIAB, working with this fantastic network of farming businesses, AgriGate enables producers, researchers and waste users to collaborate in developing commercial approaches to waste reduction and management. By linking small-scale research to business operations, they will be able to test novel solutions on a viable scale prior to significant investment in a final commercial system.”
Partners in AgriGate are already developing remote sensing and web-based predictive modelling tools to manage crop planting and harvest schedules and this was on show. Others are scoping research to work on safeguarding water resources and devising a simple and reliable soil health index system, accounting for soil microbes and able to assist with the management of plant health.
Image shows, from left to right: Andrew Burgess (Head of Agriculture, Produce World); Mark Pendlington (Chairman, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and Group Director, Anglian Water); Tina Barsby (CEO NIAB); Giles Barker (COO and co-Founder, KisanHub); Ben Tam (Innovation Programme Manager, Anglian Water); Belinda Clarke (Director, Agri-Tech East); George Freeman MP; Martin Lutman (Programme Manager, Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative); Mark Reeve (Chairman, Greater Cambridge / Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership and Managing Director, Chalcroft) Effie Mutasa-Göttgens (Project Manager, AgriGate [NIAB])