The Innovation Hub is a purpose-built facility in the heart of Cambridgeshire, facilitated by funding from the Eastern Agritech Growth Initiative. This unique centre has a particular focus on fresh produce and field vegetables generally. We welcome farmers and growers, food businesses, and other users wishing to engage in applied research work to reduce or re-use all forms of waste in the food supply chain and improve resource use efficiency in its production.
Research and trial activity includes:
The Hub is also set up for technology transfer events and provides a centre for training and apprenticeships. Links are being forged with schools and colleges to support learning throughout the region and to develop the skills required for a thriving agri-industry.
Managed by NIAB and overseen by an independent non-executive Board, Innovation Hub includes project management, business development, research and technical personnel with specific knowledge related to crop science, waste management and field trials.
Our new BioBoost project, funded by the EU Interreg 2 Seas programme, is all about using and reducing waste from fresh produce. We will use crop bi-products and waste crop materials as feedstocks for new higher value end-products, which otherwise would be wasted or used for lower value products. Here at Innovation Hub we are looking into more environmentally friendly solutions to minimise the impact of waste on our environment and improve the sustainability of production methods. This 3.5 year project includes scientists from industry and academia in the Netherlands, UK, and Belgium, seeking to learn from each other's innovations and to progress the best solutions through to the marketplace.
NIAB, together with the project partners, is seeking to accelerate the transition towards a more circular bioeconomy by implementing regional test and pilot projects for the development of new techniques, methods and products in the horticultural sector and supporting their development towards market-uptake. We will support SMEs towards the development of innovations and to accelerate their entry to the market. This collaborative project is co-ordinated by our Dutch colleagues in Westland in the west of The Netherlands.
Our latest EU Interreg 2Seas project that began in 2019, Hy4Dense, will investigate new ways to optimise the growth and yield of densely sown leafy salad crops in hydroponics systems. Our research at NIAB will focus on the varietal growth performances of Rocket, Lamb's Lettuce and Baby Leaf Spinach using novel technological approaches, but with a strong emphasis on achieving this sustainably.
Despite more than 90% of greenhouse cultivation of fruit and vegetables having shifted to indoor hydroponics, no hydroponic systems exist for densely grown baby leaf salads. A key output, therefore, will be the development of a bespoke pilot hydroponic system at NIAB's Innovation Hub that demonstrates the benefits of growing leafy salad crops densely in horticulture indoors. The system will ensure environmentally and economically viable cultivation, by being sustainable for growers, and more aesthetically and hygienically acceptable to demanding consumers. The technology transfer output of the project will allow the uptake of densely hydroponics for baby leaf crops at the manufacturer and grower level. Other research areas of the project include optimising LED light recipes for these crops; cost analyses on production; and understanding supply chain inefficiencies.
This 3.5 year project will be the result of close collaboration between our research partners in the UK (Essex University), Belgium (INAGRO and Howest) and the Netherlands (Proeftuin Zwaagdijk). This partnership brings together diverse knowledge and expertise on the broadly similar challenges facing the leafy salad horticultural sector across the region, and strongly directs outcomes towards inclusive solutions to these challenges.
Reducing wastage in UK agriculture is a key step in addressing the challenge of producing food in a more sustainable and efficient way. WRAP UK estimates that 16% of all food waste occurs before it arrives on retailers' shelves.
The Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub welcomed Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP for a visit to the Hub on 24th May 2018. He listened to ways in which NIAB and the Hub are working with and linking with small businesses and farmers to minimise waste.