A new research centre dedicated to reducing crop and food waste andimproving resource use efficiency in the horticultural and fresh produce supplychains has been opened in the Cambridgeshire Fens.
The first of its kind in the UK, the EasternAgriGate Research Hub, based at Hasse Fen near Soham and managed by NIAB, is awell-equipped field station, carrying out commercial scale research to increaseproductivity and reduce crop wastage before produce reaches the processor andretailer.
Located at the centre of East Anglias farmingactivity the Hub will improve the research capabilities of the regionsagri-businesses, by allowing access to suitable infrastructure, technicalexpertise and skills, including training and knowledge transfer opportunities.The new facility has been built with 600,000 of growth initiative funding fromthe Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, through theEastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative.
Mark Reeve, Chairman of the Greater CambridgeGreater Peterborough EP and the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, said: TheEastern AgriGate Research Hub is an important development for agribusinesses inour local area. There are at least 69 other farming-based enterprises justwithin a 20 mile radius of the site; 46 businesses of those are directly alliedto primary production and 20 are linked through the business supply chain.
By accessing this field station, businesses cancarry out commercial scale research to find practical solutions to the cropwastage issues that are challenging the industry. We are therefore pleased tohave been able to provide funding to develop this new facility and look forwardto seeing the results of work carried out here in the future.
NIAB Project Leader Dr Effie Mutasa-Gttgens said:Reducing wastage in UK agriculture is a key step in addressing the challengeof producing food in a more sustainable and efficient way. WRAP UK estimatesthat 16% of all food waste occurs before it arrives on retailers shelves.
Led by NIAB, working with this fantastic networkof farming businesses, the Eastern AgriGate Research Hub enables producers,researchers and waste users to collaborate in developing commercial approachesto waste reduction and management; linking small-scale research to businessoperations. They will be able to test novel solutions on a viable scale priorto significant investment in a final commercial system.
The centre was officially opened by George FreemanMP, 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’sworld-class science base and agri-businesses is a central pillar to ourAgri-Tech Strategy to help farmers produce more food with less land and lessenvironmental impact. Drawing on the East of England’s strengths in food andfarming, the Eastern AgriGate Research Hub will give businesses access to thefacilities, skills and expertise needed to develop pioneering new technologiesthat will reduce crop wastage and boost productivity for food producers acrossthe country.”
Partners in the Eastern AgriGate Research Hub arealready developing remote sensing and web-based predictive modelling tools tomanage crop planting and harvest schedules. Others are scoping research to workon safeguarding water resources and devising a simple and reliable soil healthindex system, accounting for soil microbes and able to assist with themanagement of plant health.