NIAB EMR has secured £1.68 million from the South East LEP for the East Malling Advanced Technology Horticultural Zone (ATHZ) project, which will be the first step towards delivering the vision of a cutting-edge Innovation Campus for horticulture in Kent. The ATHZ 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.

The ATHZ project will create infrastructure, services and high-tech plant growing facilities that will generate over £570,000 per annum in additional R&D spend, and create new knowledge-based and highly skilled jobs in the region.

The funding will be used to provide the first of new state-of-the-art glasshouses, as well as a new energy centre to meet the needs of the horticultural zone. 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.

This funding is additive to the grant recently secured by the Growing Kent & Medway consortium from the UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund (SIPF). It means that NIAB EMR and its partners are in a good position to attract future private sector funding and remain at the cutting edge of research and innovation.

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.”