NIAB - National Institute of Agricultural Botany

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NEWS: New agricultural innovation centre for East

02 May 2014

AgriTech East

NIAB is leading a project to provide a home for the growing agri-tech industry in the East of England, thanks to a £0.5 million investment from the Eastern Agri-Tech Initiative, created by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and partners.

The Agri Gate Research Hub has been awarded the funding following a competitive bidding process to develop a new innovation centre in Soham in Cambridgeshire, to further strengthen the local area’s position as a leader in the field of agri-tech. In total, there is a planned investment of £1.76 million into the new scheme over the next three years.

The project, led by NIAB, is designed to bring back into use an existing building at Hasse Fen, Soham to provide a unique facility for farmers and growers, food businesses, schools and colleges and other users to complete applied research work to reduce waste in the food chain and improve production efficiency. The Research Hub will provide space for such research work, in-field crop research capacity and modern meeting facilities.

NIAB CEO Dr Tina Barsby (pictured with project leader David Neill) said: “The new Agri Gate Research Hub will provide our industry with the facilities they need in a sustainable and successful research facility located in the heart of the Fens. The research work that will be undertaken at the Research Hub will range from seedbed preparation, varietal selection, and plant spacing, right through to harvesting, processing, packaging and processes. It will create opportunities for technology transfer by housing pilot and field scale research projects that are vital to the future of our industry.”NIAB CEO Dr Tina Barsby and Agri Gate Research Hub project leader David Neill

Mark Reeve, Chairman of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Eastern Agri-Tech Initiative Programme Delivery Board, added: “The Eastern Agri-Tech Initiative brings together two world-class research clusters in Cambridge and Norwich coupled with the richest agricultural land in the country. By investing in the Agri Gate Research Hub we are providing space for projects to develop and grow, with the end focus on creating new jobs in the future. This is a significant step forward towards securing our position as global leaders in the agri-tech sector.”

The Research Hub will provide space for pilot scale grading, sorting and waste processing equipment, and access to a wide range of wheeled and trailed machinery, creating a vital link between research generated by the major research organisations in the region and end-users, ensuring that local businesses remain at the forefront of technical developments.

Mark Reeve continued: “In addition to the Agri-Gate project, we also had an interesting proposal from Fenland District Council and Produce World that has great potential to support training for the developing Agri-Tech sector. Whilst we can only select one innovation centre, my team at the LEP are looking at other opportunities and we hope to be able to pick up on this initiative in the future.”  

Overall, the project will create 77 new jobs, 15 apprenticeships and safeguard 148 jobs, with further growth across the industry as a result of the research undertaken at the Hub. Work is due to start on the G’s Group owned site in July and be completed before the end of the year.

The Eastern Agri-Tech Initiative

The Eastern Agri-Tech Initiative has been created to invest in new market and supply chain development, essential skills training, and the progression, application and commercialisation of Research and Development across the Eastern area. In total £3.2 million of funding has been secured from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in conjunction with New Anglia LEP and the local authorities across both these areas.

Further information can be found at www.agritechgrants.co.uk.