East Anglia: Launch of Agri-Tech Cluster heralds new dawn for farming

Prof Jeremy Sanders, Alex Plant, Professor Mike Bevan, Dr Tina Barsby, George Freeman, Sir Leszek Bo

Prof Jeremy Sanders, Alex Plant, Professor Mike Bevan, Dr Tina Barsby, George Freeman, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Steve Morphew - Credit: Archant

The “world-class” growing land and food and farming sectors in East Anglia provide the perfect backdrop for a technology revolution, those who will lead it heard on Friday.

A new Norwich – Cambridge Agri-Tech Cluster was formally launched at NIAB Innovation Farm, Histon, near Cambridge, helping to unlock millions of pounds and revolutionise agriculture.

The cluster is aimed at linking the world-class research capability within the two cities with the world class growing land and food and farming sectors in the adjacent rural areas, including Suffolk.

Lord David Sainsbury, Chancellor of Cambridge University, said: “The UK strategy for agricultural technologies provides the food and farming industries with a great opportunity to increase their productivity, profitability and contribution to the UK economy.

“A technology revolution is taking place in agriculture and there can be no better place to bring it together with the food and farming industry than a Norwich-Cambridge Agri-tech cluster.

“The two cities have world-class research capabilities and are surrounded by world-class growing land and food and farming sectors.”

Alongside the launch of the cluster organisation, more details of the successful £3.2million Regional Growth Fund bid, made jointly by the two Local Enterprise Partnerships, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk County Councils were revealed.

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The Regional Growth Fund award will give businesses across the eastern region the opportunity to benefit from millions of pounds of investment. The fund will help support small and medium businesses as well as provide investment for prototyping to turn ideas into reality. The money will also go to build a new translation centre where scientists and farmers can work together on new projects.

The cluster is designed to bring the lab to the land and mirror the success of existing cluster organisations like the Cambridge Network and One Nucleus. The UK’s National Agri-tech Strategy, published in July, focuses on closing the gap between research and commercialisation to enhance productivity.

The East of England, and in particular the broad corridor between Cambridge and Norwich is seen as containing many of the most important UK organisations that can help to turn this aspiration into reality.

Dr Tina Barsby, Chief Executive of NIAB, said: “NIAB is delighted to host the launch of the Norwich-Cambridge Agri-Tech Cluster at our Innovation Farm facility. The challenge of ‘sustainable intensification’ in agriculture is driving a renewed emphasis on research and innovation at the farm-level, from improvements in crop genetics and agronomy to the latest advances in precision engineering and agricultural informatics. As a strategic response to the need for more productive, resilient and sustainable farming systems, the Norwich-Cambridge Agri-Tech Cluster opens up exciting opportunities for closer collaboration between the science base and industry. This is a key opportunity for the East of England to drive an exciting new phase of innovation and global leadership in agricultural science and technology.”