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30 October, 2018 - 15:23 By Tony Quested

Cambridge takes AgriTech power play to Westminster

The importance of the Cambridge AgriTech cluster to the growth of the UK economy was hammered home at a high-level event at the House of Commons today.

From robotics to AI and the potential of Internet of Things technology to once again make Britain the bread basket of the world, Cambridge AgriTech promises to revolutionise food production for global consumption.

Cluster gatekeeper Cambridge AgriTech hosted the Westminster event, which was sponsored by SmithsonHill, and featured George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk who spoke about AgriTech’s Contribution to the Industrial Strategy, and why the unique Cambridge ecosystem is so critical to the evolving cluster – locally, nationally and globally.

Freeman said: “Having led both the launch of the Government’s AgriTech Industrial Strategy and Agri-tech East as Minister, I’m delighted to see the development of this world-leading AgriTech Cluster – another sign of the huge potential of the region to create new businesses, jobs and prosperity.”

The event explored the uniqueness of the Cambridge ecosystem and the ‘spark-effect’ that a dedicated knowledge-intensive AgriTech Cluster in Cambridge could have on the already successful food production cluster in the north of Cambridgeshire, as well as convergence from other technology and life science sectors. 

Dr Sean Butler, from Cambridge AgriTech and Cambridge Judge Business School spoke about the uniqueness of agglomeration in the innovation capital of the UK.

He said: “The Cambridge ecosystem embodies a unique concentration of assets designed to encourage and support innovation – knowledge, experience, expertise, support and infrastructure – and makes the region one of the most enterprising and entrepreneurial areas in the world. It is a structure with a physical presence and a positive state of mind that is firmly established yet constantly evolving.”

AgriTech accounts for £14.3 billion in value-add and 542,000 jobs in the UK. Emma Fletcher, MD of SmithsonHill has long seen the potential for this sector.  

She said: “SmithsonHill has long held the vision that AgriTech will be key to the future economy in Cambridgeshire and beyond. It is exciting to take part in an event in Westminster with so many leading minds in this space, which highlights just how important the evolving cluster is, and that we potentially have a key role to play in it.”

Also present at the event were, Lord Andrew Lansley, Tom Sturdy MP (Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Technology in Agriculture), Angela Smith MP alongside numerous colleagues from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, and Lord David Willetts. 

Industry representatives included William Haire, (East of England Agricultural Society and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Business Board), Dr Geoff Elliot (CERES AgriTech Knowledge Exchange), Belinda Clarke (Agri-tech East), Ravi Solanki (Primera Impact), Dr Bernhard Blob (Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge), Dr Berwyn Clarke (PBD Biotech), William and Jason Burgess (Produce World), Richard Hobson (Herdsy) and Dr Duncan Robertson from Dogtooth Technologies, the Melbourn-based intelligent robot pioneer.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS:  Emma Fletcher of SmithsonHill, George Freeman MP and Dr Sean Butler, Cambridge AgriTech

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