New project to catalyse innovation in Worcestershire agri-tech launches

An innovative project aimed at promoting entrepreneurship to support Worcestershire’s agri-tech sector will launch its free programme of business support in 2020 at Pershore College.

GrowAgri Worcestershire, a £2m joint initiative between the college and the European Regional Development Fund, is tasked with supporting the development of technologies that increase efficiency in the horticultural and agricultural industries.

Starting in January, a variety of expert-led events will showcase the cutting-edge technologies that are already being developed in horticulture to revolutionise the way food is grown by maximising productivity, data collection, precision and efficiency, at the same time as benefiting the environment.

A two-day event on 22-23 January explores vertical farming and hydroponics, and will feature a talk by Peter Lane, Vice-President from the Association of Vertical Farming. He will be joined by leading industry experts in hydroponics, aquaculture, artificial lighting and water filtration.

While growing crops undercover and the use of hydroponics is not new, the introduction of vertical stacking and recent advances in LED technology will have expanded the range of crops it is possible to grow in this way. Worldwide predictions indicate the vertical farming industry will have a multi-billion-pound value over the next few years.

Peter Lane said: “I am really looking forward to meeting representatives for the Worcestershire business community to help them understand the opportunities there are to be had in this industry. Now is the time for the vertical farming industry to evolve from a garnish industry and take its place as a proper food production method. Vertical farming is not just for leafy greens or even plants, the concept can be applied to fungi, livestock, fish and even algae. We just need more imagination.”

GrowAgri Project Manager, Mark Harwood-Browne said: “Advances in LEDs and growing technologies in recent years have meant that hydroponic, aquaponic and vertical food production systems have become economically much more viable.”

On 26-27 February, participants will learn about the key features of drones and their commercial applications in horticulture at a two-day aerial management event. Developed by DroneAG, established leaders in drone technology, this is an ideal opportunity for commercial drone users to investigate how they can become part of the agri-tech revolution.

Harwood-Browne continued: “The opportunities for developing new technologies within these sectors has never been so exciting, or potentially lucrative. The GrowAgri Worcestershire events on vertical farming and drone use in horticulture are bringing together a superb range of experts to talk about where these commercial opportunities are and how they can be maximised.”

To book on either event or for more information go to wcg.ac.uk/growagri or call Mark Harwood-Browne on 0300 135 7179.