Agri-tech and its importance for Worcestershire

First published in the Worcester News 4 July 2014:

In previous editions of our Worcester News column, I have talked about the importance of particular sectors for Worcestershire’s economy. For example, I’ve focused on manufacturing, tourism and the arts.

Evesham-Vale-Greenhouse-resized-for-webOne other sector that is vital to our economic prosperity is ‘agri-tech’.  Agri-tech is a term that is used nationally to cover applied research and innovation in the agricultural industry, including horticulture, to increase yield, profit, turnover and business growth.

Worcestershire is very good at agri-tech and our strategic economic plan identifies the sector as one of the three top sectors we wish to support to grow (the other two are advanced manufacturing and IT/cyber/defence).

We already have many success stories.  For example, Evesham Vale Growers has an extensive anaerobic digester plant at its site in Fladbury that generates energy from green waste for use in its tomato greenhouses and for sale of electricity and gas back to the National Grid.  The firm is already building another AD plant nearby.

It is difficult to measure the exact contribution that the agri-tech industry make to our local economy.  We do know that the horticulture sector as a whole contributes some £2.6 billion annually to the UK economy and about 14% of this is produced in the West Midlands – the vast majority of which will be from Worcestershire and neighbouring rural counties.

Worcestershire LEP’s Board has set up an agri-tech sub group comprising representatives from the University of Worcester, Pershore College, a number of local businesses and organisations such as the National Farmers’ Union.  The objective of the group is to link growers to cutting edge research in our Universities and Colleges and thereby maximise the opportunities available to our local businesses.