The legacy of AgriTech Cornwall
In its four years, the AgriTech Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Project oversaw the creation of many new partnerships and agricultural innovations. We spoke to its director, Dr Robin Jackson, about the project’s legacy for the farming industry in Cornwall and beyond.
Encouraging and enabling research and development to stimulate innovation for agriculture was one of the main aims for AgriTech Cornwall, says Dr Robin Jackson. Despite the challenges of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, it managed this successfully with 111 companies assisted with research, grants and graduate placements, and 40 new products being launched.
The £11.8m project, which was part funded by the EU’s Regional Development Fund, had a number of notable successes, he explains. “The first one being that we brought together research institutions to work proactively with businesses.” These included the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, Rothamsted Research and Duchy College.
Diverse projects brought AgriTech to the fore
Overall, 22 research projects were undertaken, covering a wide range of interests from soil carbon to lobsters to vertical farming. “They were very diverse and have stimulated a new sector in the Cornish economy - AgriTech.
“Because of the stimulus and support provided, companies saw the huge opportunity for innovation and new technology. It wasn’t just about selling stuff to farmers – the aim was to help agriculture become more efficient, productive and resilient, and better able to protect the environment and those that farm it.”
He believes this has been achieved, but of course there is more to be done. The programme came to an end in December 2021 but other projects have been created to take work further. This includes the Farm Net Zero project which came after the Soil Carbon Project ended, and continues to help farmers in Cornwall reduce their carbon footprint.
Another outcome which Robin is particularly proud of is Future Farm, built to undertake research and knowledge transfer in dairy production which will have far-reaching benefits to existing dairy farmers and agricultural students.
Challenging times require an innovative approach
“When we started AgriTech Cornwall, we knew Brexit was coming but no one knew the Covid pandemic would happen. Since then, we have also had the invasion of Ukraine and its effect on input costs and food security, alongside all the policy-driven changes coming for farming.
“Policy is forcing change but its speed, extent and impact are not yet known. Neither do we know precisely what government is going to do to help the industry through the challenges along the way. It is not surprising that such uncertainty is causing farm businesses to postpone decision making.
“What we do know is that we need viable, sustainable, environmentally-friendly land-based enterprises that produce high quality and nutritional food, and innovation has a key role to play in that.”
Farmers are currently seeing the biggest changes in agriculture for more than 50 years. As a mutual insurer, we’ve stood by South West farmers since 1903 and through our Future Farming Programme, we are helping our Members and the wider farming community navigate the changes ahead in this transformative time.Future Farming Programme