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Coalition pledges millions in bid to unite science, farmers and retailers

22 July 2013

The Government is pledging millions of pounds into the research and commercial development of food production, with the launch of the UK’s first agricultural industrial strategy in 50 years.

According to The Telegraph, Science Minister, David Willetts (pictured) plans to unite science, farming and retailers in a bid to overhaul Britain's food production. The strategy also includes funding for research and development of Britain's genetically modified (GM) farming industry.

A new Agri-Tech Leadership Council has been formed and charged with implementing the plans, which forms the final plank in the Coalition's industrial strategy launched in 2010.

As well as MPs, the Council members include Judith Batchelar, brand director of J Sainsury; Ian Noble, a director of Pepsico; and Ian Crute, chief scientist at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Their task will be to implement the new strategy which includes:

  • An Agri-Tech Catalyst which is tasked with converting science research projects into commerically viable companies. The Catalyst is the latest in a series of Government-backed initiatives to ensure Britain's research & development, in areas including aerospace, medicine and space, are converted into companies, jobs and exports.
  • A series of Centres for Agricultural Innovation where the latest farm technologies from computer driven tractors to water saving devises and high yielding crops can be road tested.
  • A Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Metrics of Sustainability which will, for the first time, gather data from traditional, organic and GM farming methods in order to identify and track the most efficient methods of food production.
George Freeman, chairman of the All Party Group on Agricultural Science and Technology, said: "Rising world population and rapid development of emerging economies means that by 2050 the world will need to almost double food production using roughly half as much land, water and energy.

"Consumers also need to know this is being done properly, not by chucking horsemeat into the food chain. This includes GM but it's also far, far bigger than that. It's about developing tractor technology to reducing plastics, conserving water and breeding new strains of disease and drought resistant crops. By better commercialising our science base we can help UK improve its productivity, spawn a new generation of start-ups, and attract major new research investment and export markets."

The strategy, which combines the efforts of the Department for Business, DIFID, and DEFRA, is the fourth plank in the growth plan that started with Life Sciences and included the Aerospace and Medicine strategies too.

The aim of the latest push is to improve the agricultural process at home but also help British companies and scientists develop and exports ideas to help emerging markets boost food production too.

Experts have warned that, with the global population set to rise from 7 billion people to 9 billion by 2050, the demand for food, water and other resources such as fertilisers is set to soar. Volatile weather conditions have also highlighted the vulnerability of food production around the world.

Financial investors are beginning to invest in advances in biosciences, technology, and farming practises that are being developed to address the problems. Through the Catalyst, the Government wants to unite venture capitalists with scientists and industry developers.


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