The UK research, innovation and enterprise organisation is looking to fund businesses that can improve supply chain operations in fresh produce 

GrowUp vertical farm in Sandwich, Kent, is a previous winner

GrowUp vertical farm in Sandwich, Kent, is a previous winner

Growing Kent & Medway is offering a share of £600,000 to businesses with innovative ideas to sustainably improve operations within the fresh produce, food and drink supply chain.

The Business Sustainability Challenge, launched today (14 February), will award funding of up to £50,000 for innovative ideas, processes, or technologies that support sustainable production, products and packaging solutions. The funders are particularly interested in projects that create circular economies in the horticulture and plant-based food and drink supply chain.

This is the second round of the Growing Kent & Medway Business Sustainability Challenge. The seven previous winners were awarded a share of over £262,000 in 2023. These Kent-based businesses had inspiring innovation projects, from repurposing fruit and vegetable waste, to improving water efficiency and reducing carbon emissions with next-generation technology. The variety of projects focused on ways to reduce the impact of food and drink production systems on the environment, whilst at the same time, adding value for their business and customers.

Dr Nikki Harrison, director for Growing Kent & Medway, said: “The South East is fast becoming the leading region for food innovation in the UK. This is a testament to the remarkable achievements and ambitions of our horticultural growers, and food and drink businesses. Our previous winners of the Business Sustainability Challenge have demonstrated that innovation not only drives growth but also creates new markets and revenue streams in the region.”

Canterbury Brewers & Distillers Ltd received over £13,000 to develop a new system that uses their waste grains, energy, water, and carbon dioxide from their brewing process, to produce speciality mushrooms.

Director Jon Mills said: “After building a heat recovery system that heats our restaurant and bar from waste heat during the distillation process, I realised we could potentially use all our waste from our production of whiskey, beer and gin making. The Growing Kent & Medway Business Sustainability grant has allowed us to prove that we can be growing more than 100 kg of speciality mushrooms from our brewing waste. We are excited to see what further success our very own circular economy can have with the potential to bring new mushroom spirits to market!”

This grant scheme is for high-impact, short-term innovative projects, with collaborations encouraged, the organisation said. Successful applicants will need to match-fund 50 per cent of the total project cost, and the grant scheme is not for capital projects.

To find out more, Growing Kent & Medway will be hosting an online briefing on Friday 1 March 2024 for anyone interested in applying for the grant. Register here.

Growing Kent & Medway is a world-class research, innovation and enterprise cluster. It connects businesses in the region to support innovation and to establish the area as a world-leader in sustainable horticultural food and drink production.

The programme brings together innovative growers and processors, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs to stimulate research, innovation and business growth. It invests in state-of-the-art infrastructure, collaborative research and innovation, and enterprise growth.

The programme is led by NIAB, the UK’s largest horticultural research and development centre in East Malling, Kent. Additional research and commercial partners include: University of Greenwich, University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, Locate in Kent, APS Group, Berry Gardens, Chapel Down, Geku Automation, Gusbourne, RH Group, Smurfit Kappa, Thanet Earth, The Kent and Medway Economic Partnership, Worldwide Fruit.