Plans to boost home grown fruit and vegetable production and drive the growth of high-tech horticulture have been set out today by Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena, as part of HM Government’s work to unleash the potential of British farming.
Glasshouse growing, a form of Controlled Environment Horticulture, has multiple economic, food security and sustainability benefits, but the sector currently represents only 10% of English horticultural businesses.
It means the United Kingdom only grows 25% of the cucumbers and 17% of the tomatoes supplied domestically, however businesses operating with this model are already reaping benefits – from extended growing seasons, efficient water usage and higher yields per square metre.
To kickstart efforts to grow the horticulture sector and boost domestic production, the Environment Secretary today committed a further £12.5m investment in automation and robotics through the Farming Innovation Programme on top of more than £70 million spent so far on industry-led research and development.
The fund opens in January with ‘UK Research and Innovation’ (UKRI) and will match-fund projects that will drive economic growth, food security and deliver on environmental commitments. Previous funded projects have included fruit scouting robots, automated vegetable harvesters and new types of fertiliser.