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.

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 new 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.

Maker Space in the University's Verena Holmes Building
Maker Space in the University's Verena Holmes Building

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.”

Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at the University, said “I am thrilled to see the realisation of our partnership with Growing Kent & Medway. This marks a significant milestone in the implementation of our new research theme centred around 'Society 5.0 and the Artificial Intelligence-enabled world.’ Through the establishment of the Industrial Agri-Engineering Hub, we are creating a vibrant collaborative platform that brings together staff and students from our science, engineering, data intelligence, business, and law teams at Canterbury Christ Church University, alongside regional industry experts.

“Working together in a unified transdisciplinary effort, we are committed to positioning Kent and Medway as a driving force in the development of cost-effective and sustainable food and drink supply chains. This collaboration also aligns seamlessly with the recently announced development of 'The Data Lab' in partnership with Discovery Park. These initiatives exemplify our unwavering dedication to fostering innovation, tackling critical challenges, and making a positive societal impact through interdisciplinary collaboration.”

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.”

Dr Nikki Harrison, Programme Director for Growing Kent & Medway, said: “Our partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University, and the addition of the Industrial Agri-Engineering Hub to our innovation cluster, will complement the cutting-edge research facilities we currently have as part of our network to support the industry.

“The new Hub enables us to connect businesses with the impressive equipment and specialist knowledge in agri-engineering at the University. This will help drive innovative ideas and projects for commercial application in the Agri-food sector, helping us to strengthen our regional offering, as well as attracting international businesses and scientists to collaborate in the UK. ”

Further information about the Industrial Agri-Engineering Hub can be found on the Growing Kent & Medway website.

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