Innovation In Agriculture

Judith Batchelar: Innovation In Agriculture
By Judith Batchelar
When the Chancellor released the budget most eyes were probably drawn to the duty freeze on fuel, or even the newly shaped £1 coin. However, my attention turned to the news that £12 million is being put into a Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Sustainability Metrics. What a fantastic result for driving innovation and enabling the use of data science to build a more productive and sustainable food industry.

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), agriculture contributes over £9 billion to the UK economy and underpins the UK’s £24 billion food and drink manufacturing sector.  These stats alone are enough to highlight that we need to use data to innovate in this sector to ensure we drive improvements in animal and plant health, resource utilisation, and overall productivity as well as human health in the future.

The centre is part of the Agri-Tech Strategy which is supporting UK growth, employment and productivity within food, agriculture and associated science and technologies.  As co-chair, I am pleased we’re working closely with the Government to make the UK a world leader in agricultural science.  This means inspiring a new generation as well as helping bridge the gap between the research community and industry
Behind the scenes at Sainsbury’s we’re busy making this happen.  We launched our first Horticulture & Agriculture Apprenticeship scheme last year, we’ve committed £2.2 million to R&D products within agriculture.  And, just last week we brought together 300 people including leading academics, suppliers, farmers, research institutes and funders for our second Research & Development conference.  The day focused on sharing knowledge, real-life experiences and addressing the challenges we face across the supply chain. 

As our final call for the latest co-hort of young, enthusiastic young people to join our Horticultural Apprenticeship scheme comes to a close, we look forward to them making a mark in the livestock and poultry supply chains.