Industry views Agri-Tech as the right catalyst for third agricultural revolution

by Jayne Dyas

Industry views Agri-Tech as the right catalyst for third agricultural revolution

Organisations from across the fresh and prepared produce sector reacted enthusiastically to the idea of a bespoke Fresh and Prepared Produce Innovation Centre (FPPIC) under the newly launched Agri-Tech initiative. 

Representatives from retailers, food and drink manufacturers, producer organisations, marketing groups and growers all gathered in London on Thursday (30/1/14) to explore what working together within such a centre could mean for the industry. The broadly-based audience concluded that with public and industry funding working in unison, the industry could really be on the brink of an innovation-lead, third agricultural revolution.

Agri-Tech was launched by the Government to, “help the UK to become a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability; exploit opportunities to develop and adopt new and existing technologies, products and services to increase productivity; and contribute to global food security and international development.”

The UK horticulture and potato industry, worth £3.5bn to the UK economy, employs over 100,000 full-time and seasonal workers and is at the sharp end of sustainable intensification, producing 40% of the output value of UK farm gate crop sales on just 5% of the (non-grass) cropped land area.

Susie McIntyre, Managing Director at Kettle Produce, commented, “In today’s environment, it is heartening to see such comprehensive industry wide interest and support to collaboratively address our common challenges through the development of a Fresh and Prepared Produce Innovation Centre.”

Simon Hinks, Sainbury’s Product Technical Manager added that, “Currently much of the industry operates only with the links directly either side of an individual business without fully understanding where the biggest issues and therefore biggest opportunities sit within the entire chain. The FPPIC will enable all of the UK Horticultural industry to meet the needs of increasing demand for high quality produce, while minimising inputs and environmental impact.”

Having gathered the enthusiastic support of many from across the industry, the next step is to establish a steering group, with an industry Chair, which will include several of the new volunteers from the meeting. The steering group will then broaden the potential participant base, including wider engagement with UK research organisations.

John Chinn, Cobrey Farms, commented at the end of the meeting, “There appears to be whole-hearted industry enthusiasm for a Fresh and Prepared Produce Innovation Centre that can address the many common challenges we face.”

Organisations throughout the fresh produce supply chain wanting to know more about this initiative and get actively involved are invited to contact the steering group via the recently established HIP email address, info@hip.org.uk.

The industry meeting in London was jointly organised by the Horticulture Innovation Partnership (HIP) and the British Growers Association (BGA).