Monday, November 28, 2022

Agricultural Growth Zone created to support Lincolnshire and Rutland

An Agricultural Growth Zone has been created to support Lincolnshire and Rutland’s agricultural sector.

The Ag Zone was announced at the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s annual conference and will unite the work at Bishop Burton College’s Showground Campus, the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, the Lincoln Institute of Agricultural Technology (LIAT), Barclays Eagle Farm Lab and the cluster of agritech companies now being established on the Riseholme Campus.

It will create a centre to support agriculture and a skills pipeline to attract the next generation into the industry, from schools engagement through further and higher education and on to postgraduate education and continuing professional development for the farming industry.

The Ag Zone will continue the growth of collaborative research which has attracted over £60m of investment to the area since 2016 and supported the establishment of new agritech businesses such as Fruitcast and Agaricus Robots, both created at Riseholme in 2021.

The long-term aim is to link the cluster of skills, innovation and business support to a network of commercial demonstration farms across Lincolnshire to trial new technologies.

The Ag Zone will also work to secure additional investment to help farmers adopt new technologies, helping to ensure that Lincolnshire farms have the support they need to secure this new investment.

“Greater Lincolnshire has the UK’s leading agricultural sector underpinning the food economy in the UK Food Valley where there are over 75,000 people employed in farming, food processing and distribution,” said Sarah Louise Fairburn, deputy chair of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP and chair of its Food Board.

“Our farms produce over £2 billion of crops and livestock, 11% of the English total, with particular strengths in fresh vegetables where we have 30% of English production, as well 20% of the sugar beet, 19% of the poultry and 19% of the ornamental crops in England.

“But we know the agriculture sector is changing rapidly as the food chain reacts to pressures created by the pandemic, conflict in Europe, the cost of living crisis and policy changes.

“It is vital we help the industry adopt new technology and skills, support investment in the industry and address long-term challenges such as climate change. By bringing the key organisations together who work on this in Lincolnshire we will help our farmers and support the continued growth of the agritech sector through the work of the Ag Zone.”

Councillor Colin Davie, executive councillor for economic development, environment and planning at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “‘The Ag Zone is the next big development in the UK Food Valley and comes at a time of great change in our farming industry. We are determined to ensure that farmers across Lincolnshire have the tools needed to succeed, including the tenants on our county farms. I look forward to supporting the Ag Zone in helping our farms to access the support which will enable them to thrive.”

Councillor Owen Bierley, leader of West Lindsey District Council, said: “West Lindsey is keen to support the growth of agritech and is pleased to be working with partners on the A15 corridor north of Lincoln as they establish the Ag Zone.

“We want to create a highly skilled, dynamic economy along the A15 corridor and see agritech and the sustainable growth of farming as being essential to this mission. Building on the developments we have already seen at Bishop Burton and on the University’s Riseholme Campus is a key part of our vision and we will do everything we can to support the momentum of this cluster.”

Professor Simon Pearson, director of the Lincoln Institute for Agricultural Technology at the University of Lincoln, said: “The university is delighted to be supporting the Ag Zone. At LIAT we have been pioneering technologies ranging from agricultural robotics and digital systems to soil management and energy systems.

“We are also developing a cluster of agritech businesses on our Riseholme Campus and are keen to see this continue to grow with support from organisations such as Barclays Eagle Lab. Working with our partners in the Ag Zone will ensure we can help support the adoption of technology across the farming industry.”

Bill Meredith, principal of Bishop Burton College, said: “Bishop Burton is the leading provider of training for the next generation of farmers in the region and at our Showground Campus we focus on precision agriculture and the way in which technology is transforming our industry.

“We look forward to working with our partners in the Ag Zone to ensure we provide a complete skills package to meet future industry needs.”

Andrew Buckley, chairman of the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society, said: “The Agricultural Society is keen to support the Ag Zone as it builds on the work we do with schools, farmers and the wider community to promote the agricultural industry as a dynamic and progressive sector of the economy. Through our educational and events programmes we look forward to working with our partners to deliver outreach across the community.”

Lisa Bagley, head of the Barclays Eagle Farm Lab, said: “Barclays Eagle Farm Lab is one of a network of Eagle Labs across the UK, but the only one which focuses on agritech. Our partnership with the University of Lincoln ensures that the companies we support have access to farms and workshops to develop their technology, as well as links to business start-up and growth support.

“Working with our partners in the Ag Zone we will continue to offer a national service to link agricultural innovators to the farming industry and the support they need to grow and flourish.”

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