Construction has started at NIAB EMR in East Malling on a series of new glasshouses, offices and labs.
The investment, which is part of the £30m regional food-related ‘Growing Kent & Medway’ initiative,aims to transform plant-based scientific research facilities across the South East and strengthen the competitiveness of Britain’s horticulture, food and drink industries.
The new glasshouses will be used by scientists to improve industry profitability by developing new varieties and improving plant health and resistance to disease by undertaking controlled trials in crop production, breeding pathology, entomology and plant health.
Some £18 million of funding was secured from the government’s Strength in Places Fund by NIAB EMR and is now being used to build upon more than a century of strategic and applied horticultural research undertaken at the site. The cash has been match funded by the East Malling Trust and commerce in order to deliver new modern research facilities and science projects. This new facilities are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Professor Mario Caccamo, managing director of NIAB EMR, said: “Thanks to our success in securing funding from the Strength in Places Fund and the contribution of the East Malling Trust, we are now better placed than at any time in the last decade to help producers rise to the challenge of climate change, reducing import dependency and improving the country’s food security.
“The state-of-the-art plant growth facilities will enable our scientists to accurately manage the cropping environment and test the response of fruit crops and novel technologies to help improve productivity, crop profitability and generate new skilled jobs across the sector.'
NIAB EMR pointed out that thanks to earlier support secured from the Local Growth Fund (SELEP), it is currently delivering the Advanced Horticultural Technology Zone, including new science buildings, state-of-the-art glasshouses, energy facilities and other related infrastructure.
Dr Oliver Doubleday, chair of the board of the East Malling Trust, said “The delivery of this ambitious project follows our vision to see East Malling continue to develop as a global innovation centre.
“The modernisation of the site was long overdue and will support the team at NIAB EMR to remain at the cutting edge of technology. We are very excited to be able to support this development and look forward to continuing our partnership with NIAB EMR to deliver world-class science at the service of the UK’s growers.”
The Growing Kent & Medway project’s bid received the backing of local MP Tom Tugendhat, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Kent & Medway Economic Partnership, local councils, and Locate in Kent.