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Innovation at the Heart of Long-Term Vision for Food and Flower Supply Chains

British growers, facing a confluence of challenges, have welcomed the release of the government's five-year seasonal-worker pledge. 



Ali Capper, executive chair of British Apples and Pears Limited (BAPL), gave her views on the government's response to John Shropshire's independent review on labour shortages in the food supply chain, saying: "We are delighted with the government response to John Shropshire's independent labour review.


"At long last, our growers have the labour certainty they need to plan for the future. Our pleas have been answered. Until now, apple and pear growers in the UK have not known from one year to the next whether they would be able to access the seasonal workers they need to pick their crops.


"This kind of uncertainty has been incredibly stressful and entirely unnecessary."


This new plan goes beyond season worker commitment and outlines a long-term vision for the food supply chain, focused on technology, automation, and strengthening the domestic workforce. 


These measures aim to build a more resilient and sustainable horticultural industry for the future.

Navigating Challenges Head-On


Recent years have seen significant strains on British agriculture. Labour shortages, worsened by Brexit, and the increasing impact of climate change have threatened crop yields and traditional harvesting methods. 


To confront these challenges, the government's plan prioritises investment in innovative agricultural technologies and initiatives to attract and train domestic workers.


New Measures to Drive Innovation


In its response to John Shropshire's Independent Review into Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, the government outlines a series of new measures:


  • Seasonal Worker Visa Extension: A five-year extension until 2029 provides growers with much-needed time to invest in automation and reduce reliance on migrant labour.

  • Technology Funding: Up to £50 million to accelerate automation adoption and develop robotic crop pickers, aiming to revolutionise the UK food supply chain.

  • Domestic Workforce Plan: A focus on enhancing skills provision and attracting UK-based workers to sustain the industry long-term.


Technology at the Forefront


The central pillar of the plan is to advance automation and robotics, positioning the UK as a global leader in agritech.  



As Environment Secretary Steve Barclay explained, "We have a world-class food and drink sector, and the measures announced today will strengthen this by boosting funding for the cutting-edge technology that will reduce reliance on migrant labour in the long term."


Cultivating a Domestic Workforce


Alongside technology, the strategy emphasises building a skilled domestic workforce.  The government will collaborate with the industry and educational institutions to raise awareness of careers in food and farming.  


Nigel Jenney, Chief Executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), agrees: "It's imperative the sector attracts fantastic people to deliver a world-leading UK Horticultural sector from grower to wholesale and beyond."


Showcasing the Future at FPC FUTURE EXPO 25


The industry's dedication to innovation will be showcased at FPC FUTURE EXPO 25, co-located with LAMMA. 



This groundbreaking event on 15 and 16 January 2025 is designed as a window into the future, featuring the latest in agritech, robotics, automation, vertical farming, and more.  "More than just an event, in fact, it will be a dynamic forum for the exchange of ideas and knowledge," explained Jenney.


Summit to Shape the Future


The Farm to Fork Summit on May 14th will continue the crucial dialogue on solutions. The government's strategy shows a positive slant towards a serious commitment to a future-ready, self-sufficient British food supply chain with technology and workforce development at the heart of the transformation.

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