From wild rocket to downy mildew, new projects receive funding


An innovative breeding system for a herb and salad producer, an investigation into downy mildew pathogens and new lighting to extend the growing season for a flower producer, are projects by three local businesses that will receive almost £250,000 of funding from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative. The scope of these projects demonstrates how the East is at the forefront of agricultural innovation in the UK.

The successful funding recipients from this round are as follows:

New variety of Wild Rocket – CN Seeds Ltd, Ely

CN SeedsCN Seeds Ltd is a family run business that specialises in herbs and leafy salads.

Mark Hodgkinson from CN Seeds Ltd, said: “The Eastern Agri-Tech funding will enable CN Seeds to pilot a new breeding programme which, if successful, will help the company to overcome one of its biggest challenges in relation to developing new products, the length of time it takes to develop a new variety.”

“The pilot will begin within the company’s established Wild Rocket product range, and will involve integrating marker assisted selection into the breeding programmes through trialling new high tech equipment and utilising the services of local experts in the field of plant genetics. The desired outcome will be to make significant savings in both time and resources through being more accurate and consistent.”

New diagnostic assay for downy mildew,  NIAB, Cambridge

Internationally recognised for its innovation in the plant science sector, NIAB provide independent, science-based research and information for agriculture and horticulture. This funding will be used to investigate organisms collectively known as downy mildews that affect plant growth, in order to provide quality assurance for seed sales, as well as providing the basis for seed treatment decisions.

Project Leader, Dr Jane Thomas from NIAB, said: “This project will add a new and unique set of services to our NIAB Lab-test portfolio. The Eastern Agri-Tech Initiative funding has enabled us to develop the diagnostic assays which will underpin effective disease management for problematic downy mildew pathogens.”

Matthews Flower Growers Ltd (MFGL), Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

MFGL is a successful producer of cut flowers in the area. It aims to take advantage of modern, clean technologies by constructing highly efficient glasshouses for the production of cut roses and lilies. The funding will be used to purchase a new LED lighting system which will enable the normal growing season to be extended.

Ian Matthews from Matthews Flower Growers Ltd, said: “The grant has enabled us to introduce the latest technology into our project, which will shorten production time and enhances plant growth. We are extremely grateful for all the hard work GCGP Enterprise Partnership put in on our behalf.”


Eastern Agri-Tech Growth InitiativeMark Reeve, Chairman of the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explains: “Our area is driving forward advances in the Agri-Tech sector. By providing almost £2 million of targeted grants to local businesses we are ensuring that we help our local businesses to grow even further.

“From new machinery to help flower and plant growers be more efficient, through to vital sector research and development, the funding will help local businesses to expand and create more jobs for our area.

“We still have grants available so I would encourage any business within the Agri-Tech sector with plans to grow to get in contact with us to find out more.”

You can find out more by visiting or calling 01480 277180.


Our January Pollinator – Agri-Tech: Focus on funding – will feature a talk by Martin Lutman, the Programme Manager at LEP. To find out more please click here.

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