Growing Kent and Medway/Canterbury Christ Church University agri-engineering collaboration launched to boost food innovation

A new partnership has been announced between Growing Kent & Medway and Canterbury Christ Church University to connect horticultural and food and drink businesses with agri-technology specialists.

Holmes building

Canterbury Christ Church Verena Holmes building

The development of the Industrial Agri-Engineering Hub at the University will complement and enhance Growing Kent & Medway’s existing activities for business-led research and innovation in the horticultural, and food and drink sector.

This new collaboration brings together all of Kent’s research institutes to provide a comprehensive range of scientific expertise and capabilities for businesses, boosting growth in this critical sector for the UK.

The Industrial Agri-Engineering Hub will draw upon the University’s strengths and resources, providing academic expertise in agri-engineering, automation and manufacturing, assistive technologies and applied data analysis and intelligence.

The Hub is based at Canterbury Christ Church University’s multi-million-pound Verena Holmes Building, one of the largest STEM buildings in the southeast. Businesses will be able to access the University’s specialist facilities and cutting-edge technology, supporting Growing Kent & Medway’s ambition for Kent and Medway to become a world-leading region in research and innovation for horticultural production, food processing, and climate-smart farming technologies.

Mario Caccamo, CEO of NIAB, lead partner for Growing Kent & Medway said: “The collaborative partnership between Canterbury Christ Church University and Growing Kent & Medway will support a step-change in the impact agri-technology has on our sustainable food production systems. Their expertise and state-of-the-art facilities will help us to strengthen crop production management systems and the automation of production in our food supply chains.”

“By connecting the horticultural industry together with their leading knowledge of sensor technology, advanced manufacturing, and automation, we have an incredible opportunity to transform our fragile production systems, making them more resilient to the impact of climate change, labour shortages and energy crises.”

Professor Rama Thirunamachandran DL OBE, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, said: “I am delighted that Canterbury Christ Church University is entering into a partnership with Growing Kent and Medway, a consortium dedicated to strengthening the region’s horticulture, food and drink industries through research, innovation and enterprise. The University is a strong contributor to the region’s economy in terms of the opportunities we have to link with business.

“Our EDGE (Engineering, Design, Growth and Enterprise) Hub, developed in partnership with industry, provides a strong platform for the stimulation of new skills and innovation for business, and our Verena Holmes STEM Building provides a state-of-the-art facility for experimentation, research and collaboration. The partnership also aligns with our commitment to purse social justice, through sustainability, and reflects our values to use inclusive education and research to support our communities.”

Growing Kent & Medway is a 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). Additional research and commercial partners include: University of Greenwich, University of Kent, 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.