Kent: a home for UK Agritech
Kent is a thriving, constantly evolving community of agricultural innovators in the most essential of all global industries. With one of the UK’s warmest climates and a long-established tradition as a farming and horticultural hub, the county boasts more farms and smallholdings than anywhere else in the South East – and well over 220,000 hectares of farmland and countryside. From its orchards and vineyards to its scores of regular, successful and well-loved farmers markets, Kent truly earns its title as the vibrant, plentiful Garden Of England.
Facing the mounting pressures of climate change and resource sustainability, the field of agricultural technology is rising to the challenge. Commercially produced bee populations are combating the worrying trend of colony die-off and boosting fruit yields by as much as 30%. Meanwhile, innovations like hydroponics and vertical farming are broadening our very understanding of what “farmland” means. Every innovation brings our common targets for sustainability, carbon neutrality and even profitability closer, and Kent is doing its part in the push toward a healthier, greener and more innovative future.
Support for innovative Agritech
Naturally, innovation in any sector can only occur in an environment that’s fit to support it. Growing Kent and Medway, a research, innovation and enterprise cluster, is dedicated to driving the industry forward with climate-smart food production and processing, minimised waste and new technologies. The announcement from Business Secretary Alok Sharma of £18 million in government funding, granted through UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund, is the clearest possible signal that the organisation’s message of driving sustainable growth in UK agriculture is getting through.
With its eyes firmly fixed on the future of UK agriculture, Growing Kent and Medway is working with the government, the education sector and private business to boost innovation, ensure the creation of jobs and overcome every challenge facing the industry. Those partnerships have included such initiatives as a 2021 competition allowing UK businesses to apply for a share of up to £2 million in investment - again funded through UKRI’s Strength in Places Fund - for innovative agricultural and horticultural projects.
Innovation in every field
Innovation in Agritech is a broad topic with implications for every stage and specialisation in the production process. Waste minimisation is obvious a huge part of it, along with energy and resource efficiency. Beyond developments in practices and processes like these, though, we’re also seeing developments in the products themselves. Crops are being designed with increased resilience to a changing climate, while high-precision technologies from self-operating drones to Artificial Intelligence are finding their places on the battlefields and cattle fields of this new era. Survey robots are conducting comprehensive, multispectral scans of farmland, feeding back data in real-time without human intervention. Self-steering, “smart-sprayers” are then using that information to optimise their routes and payloads, minimising the use of herbicides.
At the same time, a new generation of younger farmers is already expanding industry definitions and expectations in bold new ways. From the North Wales farm diversifying into milkshake vending machine technology to the Kentish business implementing low-input grass systems to optimise sustainability, UK farmers are finding innovative ways to prepare their businesses, products and processes for a challenging future.
The Kent Farming Conference
Sponsored by RIFT R&D, the Kent County Agricultural Society’s first annual Kent Farming Conference is being held at the Kent Showground in Detling on the 26th of January 2022. Building on the success established in recent years by their Farming Expo, the conference is aiming to bring together some of the biggest thinkers and best ideas in UK agriculture to discuss the sector’s most important obstacles, opportunities, and concerns. Guest speakers include:
- Andrew Barr: Partner at A&A Barr Farms, KCAS Board Director
- John Pawsey: Chairman of Shimpling Park Farms Limited
- James Smith: Managing Director, Loddington Farm
- Grace O'Dwyer: Regional Agriculture Director, HSBC
- Alice Ritchie: Sustainable Agricultural Manager, Tesco
- Sarah Collins: Technical Director, RIFT Research and Development
RIFT is thrilled to support this exciting event, and we look forward to seeing you there. The conference is free to attend, and you can register your interest at The Kent Farming Conference - Kent County Agricultural Society (kcas.org.uk)
If you're breaking through barriers and pushing back boundaries on your farms, then you could be due R&D Tax Relief. We can help you identify historic qualifying activity and get the credit for it. Call 01233 653002.