This new innovation and research centre is dedicated to reducing crop and food waste or channeling that waste into higher grade end products. It will also work on improving resource use efficiency in the horticultural and fresh produce supply chains. It was initially named 'Eastern Agri-Gate Research Hub', but due to similarities to existing sites was re-named 'Innovation Hub' in February 2017. Press releases relating to these early days are accessible at www.niab.com/news_and_events/article/311 and information about the original construction at www.enterpriseeastcambs.co.uk
The Hub, which is the first of its kind in the UK, is managed by NIAB and located in the Cambridgeshire Fens, at Hasse Fen near Soham. It is equipped to run as a field/test station, where NIAB can work with local and national businesses to carry out commercial scale pilot studies. The aim is to increase productivity and reduce crop wastage along the value chain; especially before produce reaches the processor and retailer.
With easy access to East Anglia's farming activity, the Hub will improve the research capabilities of the region's agri-businesses, by allowing access to suitable infrastructure, technical expertise and skills, including training and knowledge transfer opportunities. The new facility has been built with £600,000 of growth initiative funding from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP), through the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative.
We are grateful for generous funding from Eastern Agritech Growth Initiative, facilitated by the GCGP LEP in 2014. See also www.gcgp.co.uk/2014/05/new-innovation-centre-for-soham/ For more information about this funding please see the GCGP Website
Mark Reeve, Chairman of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough EP and the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, said:
"The Hub is an important development for agribusinesses in our local area. There are at least 69 other farming-based enterprises just within a 20 mile radius of the site; 46 businesses of those are directly allied to primary production and 20 are linked through the business supply chain.
By accessing this field station, businesses can carry out commercial scale research to find practical solutions to the crop wastage issues that are challenging the industry. We are therefore pleased to have been able to provide funding to develop this new facility and look forward to seeing the results of work carried out here in the future."
Dr Lydia Smith, Head of Innovation Hub, said:
"We are keen to consider all routes to either reduce wastage in UK production, or to look at better use of that waste. This is a vital step towards sustainably reducing waste within the system, whilst ensuring economic production of food in the UK and contributing to future food and nutritional security. WRAP UK estimates that 16% of all food waste occurs before it arrives on retailers' shelves.
Led by NIAB, working with this fantastic network of farming businesses, the Hub enables producers, researchers and waste users to collaborate in developing commercial approaches to waste reduction and management; linking small-scale research to business operations. They will be able to test novel solutions on a viable scale prior to significant investment in a final commercial system."
The centre was officially opened by George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences, and Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire. Speaking at the event Mr Freeman said:
"Building connections between the UK's world-class science base and agri-businesses is a central pillar to our Agri-Tech Strategy to help farmers produce more food with less land and less environmental impact. Drawing on the East of England's strengths in food and farming, the Hub will give businesses access to the facilities, skills and expertise needed to develop pioneering new technologies that will reduce crop wastage and boost productivity for food producers across the country."
Business Partners are already developing remote sensing and web-based predictive modelling tools to manage crop planting and harvest schedules. Others are scoping research to work on safeguarding water resources and devising a simple and reliable soil health index system, accounting for soil microbes and able to assist with the management of plant health. The Hub, originally known as Agri-Gate, was recently re-named The Innovation Hub to better describe its activities going forward.
Building completed 2015
The Hub today