3 agri-tech centres merging to drive farming innovation

Three of the UK’s four agri-tech centres are to merge into a single entity to drive a more joined-up approach towards new farming technologies and innovations.

The three to merge are Crop Health and Protection (Chap), the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (Ciel) and the Agricultural Engineering, Precision and Innovation (Agri-EPI) Centre.

This new single entity aims to facilitate a stronger cross-sectoral approach and drive better outcomes for the agri-tech sector across innovation, commercialisation and adoption, as well as research.

See also: Analysis: How farming will gain from new agri-tech solutions

Together they are being invited to develop a proposal to establish an agri-tech Catapult, to complement the work of the existing nine Catapults.

Established by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, Catapults are world-leading technology and innovation centres spanning over 50 locations across the UK, transforming the nation’s capability for innovation in sectors of strength.

Innovate UK will offer additional support to UK businesses in the agri-tech sector, aligning with a key strategic priority in its healthy living and agriculture domain.

Agrimetrics, the fourth of the UK’s agri-tech centres, will remain a separate entity.

George Freeman, the current minister for science, innovation and technology, launched the first Agri-Tech Industrial Strategy in 2013.

Clearer frameworks

Mr Freeman said he was delighted to be back driving the next wave of investment with much clearer frameworks, and an offer for global investors to back UK agri-tech.

“With the global population set to hit nine billion within the next 25 years, scientists have been clear that we need to double global food production using the same land with half as much energy and water,” he said.

“That is the challenge driving global demand for agri-tech – the technologies that allow us to produce more with less.”

Prof Tina Barsby, a plant geneticist and a former chief executive of Niab, said merging three of the four UK agri-tech centres into a single entity “makes sense”.

But she added: “There are significant lessons to be learned from the past 10 years if it is to deliver meaningful improvements in the translation and uptake of new farming technologies and innovations.”

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