Three members of the EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Select Committee spent a day at the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC) near York to see the latest science and technology being developed to support sustainable intensification of farming to increase the UK’s food security and competitiveness in international agri-food export markets.
The three MPs, including chairman Neil Parish (Con: Tiverton and Honiton) and local MP Julian Sturdy (Con: York Outer) who are both farmers and Angela Smith (Lab: Penistone and Stockbridge), saw at first hand some of the technologies and services being developed by Fera and Crop Health and Protection, (CHAP) which is one of the government’s four agri-tech centres also headquartered at NAFIC.
As well as learning about how Fera was protecting the UK and its Natural Capital from the threat of incursions such as the Asian Hornet, international food fraud, or eco-baselining the environmental impact of modern farming, they also heard how Fera and CHAP were committing resources to support regional economic development in food and agriculture, according to CHAP.
CHAP CEO, Fraser Black, said that he was encouraged by the engagement shown by the Select Committee and their willingness and eagerness to understand the relevance of what Fera and CHAP are doing to improve productivity.
After the tour committee chairman, Mr Parish MP said: “This has been an incredibly interesting day and given us a lot to think about. It’s all very necessary going forward if we want to make sure that the rising population is better fed. I am certain that Fera and CHAP will be at the forefront of this.”
Mr Sturdy MP said: “The whole day has been very impressive. It is clear that Fera and CHAP operate at the very forefront of science and technology. Looking at the farming productivity graph, it is clear that the UK lies behind other countries, such as the US and some European countries. What we have seen from today means that the UK will be able to compete and catch up.”
Ms Smith, MP who is also vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Science and Technology in Agriculture also said that she was “hugely impressed and that the productivity gains from these technologies are enormous”.
The MPs will produce a report on their visit to share with their colleagues and were enthusiastic to return to NAFIC to see how the technologies are working once they come on stream, according to CHAP.