Agri-Tech was on the discussion menu at the Food Matters Live exhibition in London with a lively debate about the benefits and progress of the Agri-Tech Strategy.
Tom Thackray (Principal Advisor, Industrial Strategy, CBI) kicked things off by posing the question “Agri-Tech, is the glass half full or half empty?” Overall, Tom and CBI members felt that the Agri-Tech Strategy is a very positive step and that including the food and drink sector in the Industrial Strategy has been a good move in what is a highly forward looking Strategy.
Professor Paul Berryman (Agri-Tech Specialist at UKTI (UK Trade and Investment)) outlined how the Agri-Tech Strategy does link up and enhance the whole supply chain from the farm to the retailer. Paul provided an overview of the huge range of stakeholders that are involved in directing and delivering the Strategy, notably through the Leadership Council which includes representatives from growers, manufacturers and retailers. There is also Agri-Tech Catalyst which supports collaborative research between companies and academia to help commercialise agricultural innovation. Over 120 organisations, from across the supply chain, have been involved in the £27m Agri-Tech Catalyst projects announced so far - with many more to come over the next few months!
However Paul also pointed out that central government funding can only go so far, so it is focussed on up-and-coming areas that have the most potential – hence why Agri-Tech was chosen:
The Strategy was designed to put a focus on a particular area…by teaming up we will have a knock-on effect that will improve things further down the line – and across the whole supply and food chain.
Hear more from Paul about the Agri-Tech Strategy in this video:
Caroline Drummond (Chief Executive of Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF)) then gave an overview of LEAF and the opportunities that the Agri-Tech Strategy affords:
The Agri-Tech Strategy is a fantastic starting point for integrated government action and provides an opportunity to support the changes needed. Now we need to see more attention on health and education, and we need dynamic and engaging approaches to communication.
We couldn’t agree more and have been paying considerable attention to our own communications to strengthen the ways in which we both keep the sector informed of our progress and the opportunities available to them, and hear about their progress and the impact that agri-tech is having.
Caroline explains more in this video:
The session concluded with an enthusiastic debate with the audience, with one guest stating:
we must improve the movement of people as it spreads knowledge – we must work together as a food chain, not compartmentalize the food chain too far.
It seems that all ultimately agree – the Strategy is designed to bring people and knowledge together, and help them work collaboratively for what is a very exciting future – neatly summarised in closing comments from Paul :
Agri-Tech has satellites and science and tractors, what could be more exciting?!
An excellent opportunity for frank and passionate debate, the session provided us all with a chance to reflect on our progress so far and the challenges ahead.
Nancy Bailey, Agri-Tech Strategy team, BIS