Councillors view £500,000 agri tech centre at Soham – the investment that MP felt should have headed to Fenland

20th December 2017

It was the £500,000 investment that sparked a neighbouring MP’s fury but the result was an agric-tech innovation hub that is attracting massive interest – and has now hosted a visit by East Cambs councillor.

Councillors were given the opportunity to see first-hand how research is being used to reduce crop and food waste here in the East, when representatives from East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) were invited on a tour of the Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub at Hasse Fen, Soham that opened two years ago.

The Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub is a plant science organisation which has eleven regional centres across the UK.

Councillors were given a tour of the premises and the opportunity to meet tenants.

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay had previously questioned why funding for the centre had gone to East Cambs instead of Fenland

However the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership – who funded the project – concluded the Soham scheme had unanimous support.

“The Fenland proposal, by comparison, was underdeveloped, lacked commercial engagement, and had less secure buy-in from the sector,” said a LEP spokesman.

“The centre supports local users to engage in applied research in reducing crop and food waste and improving resource use efficiency within the horticulture and fresh produce supply chains.

“!t is estimated that 16 per cent of all food waste occurs before it arrives on retailers’ shelves, so reducing wastage in agriculture in the UK and developing countries is a key step to the industry becoming more efficient and sustainable.”

Councillor Steve Cheetham, service delivery champion for economic development at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Food waste is a big problem in the UK so it is heartening to see a business here in our region taking steps to put this right. “The centre is a leader in innovation, research and development and we’re very proud to have them based in our district.”

Denise Elliott from NIAB said “It was a pleasure to host the ECDC councillors for their visit to the Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub. Also to introduce them to our resident businesses at the Hub: Entomics, Aponic and Celbius. These businesses are researching innovative ways of making higher value products from food waste or producing a more efficient production system to reduce waste.”

NIAB manages the site carrying out commercial scale research to increase productivity and reduce crop wastage before produce reaches the processor and retailer.