Plans for an Innovation Campus for horticulture in Kent have moved a major step forward after the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) agreed to back the project.
The East Malling Advanced Technology Horticultural Zone (AHTZ) is one of three projects to share £6m to support the recovery of the economy by stimulating growth in key, high-skilled sectors across Kent, Essex and East Sussex.
SELEP’s Accountability Board agreed to provide a grant of £1.68 million for the project, based at the horticultural research institution NIAB EMR, to create infrastructure, services and high-tech plant growing facilities in East Malling.
Professor Mario Caccamo, Managing Director at NIAB EMR, said: “Commercially sustainable horticulture requires high-tech scientific research.
“Thanks to this grant, the team here at East Malling will be able to support our partners and develop industry-relevant science that supports innovation, stimulates job creation, import substitution and health benefits – all factors that help address the growing global food security agenda.”
The funding for AHTZ will be used to provide state-of-the-art glasshouses, as well as a green energy facility to meet the needs of the new horticultural facilities. The project will use advanced greenhouse designs, which will host high-tech imaging, robotics, precision irrigation rigs, LED lighting and CO2 systems with the purpose of advancing horticultural agronomy in the region.
SELEP Chair Christian Brodie, added: “The NIAB EMR project will help secure the South East as frontrunners in highly skilled industries.”
The funding for the AHTZ project follows the recent success of the NIAB EMR-led Growing Kent & Medway consortium which secured £18 million of government funding from UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund.