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£90m agri-tech investment must include farmers from start

Business Secretary Greg Clark announced the fund at NFU Conference 2018 for the ‘development side’ of R&D.


Lauren   Dean

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Lauren   Dean
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The news of a £90 million ‘agri-tech revolution’ pot has seen mixed reaction.
The news of a £90 million ‘agri-tech revolution’ pot has seen mixed reaction.
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£90m agri-tech investment must include farmers from start

Government’s announcement of a £90 million pot for an ‘agri-tech revolution’ has been met with mixed reaction from the industry, with some questioning how relevant the research would be to farmers on the ground.

 

Business Secretary Greg Clark announced the fund at last week’s NFU Conference and said the Government needed to put a more increased focus on the development side of research and development (R&D).

 

This included the creation of translation hubs, bringing together farmers and growers, businesses, scientists and centres for agricultural innovation to apply the latest research to farming practice.

 

He said: “In this country, we have often been better at the invention and discovery of new ways of doing things than the implementation of them.


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Business Secretary Greg Clark at NFU Conference 2018.
Business Secretary Greg Clark at NFU Conference 2018.

“With the technological revolution which is happening, it seems to me the skills of the farming workforce need to keep pace.”

 

Kate Pressland, programme lead for Innovative Farmers, questioned if translation hubs should instead be co-design hubs to get farmers involved from the very beginning.

 

She said: “Increased investment in agricultural R&D is certainly welcome news, but is this translation going to be two-way?

 

“Should we instead be investing in co-design hubs, where farmers and researchers can work together from the outset and genuinely collaborate? Farmers know, better than anyone, the problems they face.

 

Translation

“This spirit of innovation can only be positive for agricultural research, so if this new funding is really going to help our agricultural sector, it needs farmers involved from the start.”

CLA chief land use policy adviser Susan Twining said the scheme must ensure innovation translated from lab to field and make farming more efficient, productive and environmentally sustainable.

 

She said fast-tracking access to new and developing technology would allow the industry to farm in different ways.

 

Ms Twining added: “We can be more targeted with our crop and livestock inputs and work more collaboratively throughout the supply chain, with better management information in the right place at the right time for effective decision-making.

 

“The Minister’s commitment to this investment will play a major role to ensure innovation translates successfully from lab to field to help feed a growing global population.”

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