Known historically as the Garden of England with its farming community serving the daily needs of London and beyond, Kent has a strong land-based sector. Today, a community of agri-tech companies are helping to support farmers and horticulturalists around the world to ensure increasing levels of productivity and food security globally.
Rural PLC (Kent) treats the county’s agricultural and horticultural sector as a single business entity which, were it listed, would be ranked well into the top of the FTSE 100 companies. Bringing together leading figures, Rural PLC (Kent) works to capitalize on opportunities for business growth.
NIAB EMR (previously known as East Malling Research) is a centre of horticultural research excellence, with its work having been shared around the world to support fruit growers. It specialises in water management, pest and disease control, genome research and the development of fruit varieties that are able to adapt to the changing global climate, and works with major companies and supermarkets.
There are many food producers in the county, including companies such as Thanet Earth, Shepherd Neame and a range of vineyards (including Chapel Down Winery and Biddenden Vineyards). All food and drink producers are supported by Produced in Kent – a membership group committed to promoting Kent food and drink products and services.
Kent’s influence also reaches globally thanks to the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), part of the University of Greenwich. This organisation delivers high quality research in support of global food security, sustainable development and poverty reduction.
The county is also home to the UK’s leading soft fruit growers, including Hugh Lowe Farms, the only supplier of strawberries to the official caterer at Wimbledon.
The skills base for Kent’s agri-tech businesses is well-served by the county’s universities and those in London, such as Imperial College. Another valuable skills source is Hadlow College, which has campuses in Kent and London and covers a range of land-based subjects at further and higher education level. This includes the college’s development at Betteshanger Sustainable Parks.
The UK Government also offers strong support for the agri-tech industry, thanks to R&D tax credits, Patent Box and other financial incentives, including one of the lowest levels of Corporation Tax of any country in the European Union.
Annually, approximately £400m is invested in agri-tech research by UK Government organisations, with a further £160m proposed over five years as part of the Strategy for Agricultural Technologies.