The UK is recognised as a world leader in Agri-Tech. It is renowned for its world-leading Agri-Tech R&D, combined with academic and commercial strengths across robotics, big data, precision engineering, remote sensing, smart water management, and plant and animal breeding. The UK has a proven ability to develop and bring, with commercial partners, new products and solutions to market. Institutes and Universities have long worked closely with industry to translate agricultural research, innovations and new technologies into commercial propositions to meet demands from farmers and agri-businesses.
The UK Government is committed to supporting the sector and has recently invested £90m to set up four Centres for Agricultural Innovation and £70m for an Agri-Tech Catalyst to provide funding for agri-tech projects (including £10m to deliver international development projects).
British agritech companies, such as IGS, are at the forefront of Agri-Tech innovation. Scotland-based IGS has developed a highly scalable, modular vertical farm system with lighting and climate control capable of delivering increased yields of high-quality crops. The farms can operate in heat up to 60°C and feature irrigation systems which recycle up to 95% of all water in each crop cycle. This also makes them extremely energy efficient and environmentally sound, with zero emissions. The company is beginning to deploy systems around the world, working with local partners who are seeking to improve food security and localise production in their countries.
Jones Food Company (JFC) operates the largest vertical farm in Europe with over 5,000m2 of growing space. Their unique hydroponics systems are capable of growing hundreds of tonnes of fresh produce a year that are affordable, delicious and environmentally friendly. JFC’s farms use renewable energy, including solar power, using 95% less water than traditional farms and no chemical pesticides. The majority of processes including seeding, watering and harvesting are automated at JFC farms, therefore creating a streamline and hyper-efficient business. The company are currently looking at a number of projects across the GCC, with various partners wishing to establish long term collaborations. These projects aim to provide long term supply security utilising JFC's world class automated commercial growing facilities, technology and growing knowledge.
One of the pressing issues in agriculture is how to control pests and remove bacteria without the need for antibiotics in animal farming and horticulture, helping to fight against anti-microbial resistance. The United Nations (UN) Interagency Coordination Group has established that anti-microbial resistance contributes to the death of 700,000 people. By 2050, the growing threat will cost the global economy an estimates £4.8trn every year. Wales-based Russell IPM designs and manufactures pheromone lures and bio pesticides for customers worldwide, and is the winner of two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for International Trade and Innovation. Over the last 30 years the Russell IPM research and development team has focused on developing high potential new products and their research facilities include a pheromone dispenser formulation laboratory, and an advanced in-house printing facility for custom made products.
Several UK Agri-Tech suppliers and institutions are already active in the Middle East. The University of Sheffield is working with the Sohar University in Oman to develop a greenhouse that uses cutting-edge technologies to help crops grow in the harsh environment of the Sultanate. The UK Government’s marine science agency, Cefas, is working with the Omani Marine Science Centre and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to share expertise and build capacity for sustainable aquaculture and fisheries management.
Many farmers in the UK already integrate Agri-Tech into their farm management with excellent results. They use precision agriculture to increase productivity, drive efficiency, maximise yields, protect the environment and increase profitability.
With growing domestic and international markets, a highly-skilled workforce, pro-business environment and an emerging eco-system that supports collaboration and idea-sharing, the UK now represents a fantastic opportunity for investors to join the UK’s innovative Agri-Tech sector.
There are numerous exciting new UK Agri-Tech companies and products to invest in. Many of these are solving today’s pressing challenges in agriculture and food security. Most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on food supply chains especially in high-value commodities (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, milk, etc.). This is driving an increase in investment in novel farming systems to improve local production and food security and reduce reliance on imports.