Sustainable farming systems in Telford and Wrekin
Sustainable farming will play a major role in the transformation of the agricultural sector, with Telford and Wrekin offering an ideal location for investors.
The UK attracts many agri-tech investors, with its growing domestic and international markets, a highly skilled workforce, and a pro-business environment for collaboration and idea sharing. Telford and Wrekin adds to this offer with its ecosystem of manufacturers at the forefront of digitisation and disruptive technologies.
Telford and Wrekin
Foreign direct investment
Sector and market opportunity
Sustainable farming is playing a key role in improving the efficiency of crop growing and livestock raising. Telford and Wrekin has the infrastructure and capabilities to develop new agri-tech solutions to enable sustainable food production across the globe.
The use of precision agriculture technologies will allow future farmers to make more efficient and informed decisions on crop, animal husbandry, and farm management. This is underpinned by breakthroughs in:
- informatics and big data
- remote sensing engineering
- other technologies
Many companies can benefit from these opportunities, especially those involved in markets such as:
- soil and nutrient mapping
- automation of field operations like drilling
- yield prediction
The UK agri-food sector is worth £125 billion annually. It creates a clear pipeline of sustainable agri-tech projects for national and international markets.
Telford and Wrekin provides a gateway opportunity for the design, build, testing and operation of agri-technologies. With 10% of England’s farmland area and a high agricultural gross value added (GVA), it’s an ideal place to test technology in a farm environment.
The West Midlands is part of an end-to-end food supply chain, with farmers supplying to 350 food and 120 beverage manufacturing firms in the region.
The region has a vibrant cluster of innovative SMEs and national food production firms including Kuhn, Cargill, Saputa, and Agricultural Magnetics.
Telford and Wrekin’s central location ensures a competitive advantage in the area of physical distribution with more than 5,000 companies located in the borough. There is access to superfast broadband, and strong connections to supply chains.
The Telford international Rail Freight Terminal has direct links to the national rail network, major seaports, and key locations in Europe.
There is quick rail access to major cities such as London (2 hours 10 minutes), Birmingham (45 minutes), and Manchester (2 hours 20 minutes).
Local talent and skills
There are 475,000 jobs in the UK agriculture sector, and 45,000 engineering professionals in the West Midlands.
Harper Adams University (HAU) is the largest specialist university in agricultural engineering in the UK and home to the National Centre for Precision Farming (NCPF). It conducts world-leading research and partners with businesses and universities in both crop and livestock production.
The Agricultural Engineering Precision and Innovation (Agri-Epi) Centre is also based at Harper Adams University. Its core partners include:
- Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
- Cranfield University
- Harbro Ltd
- Ag Space Agriculture Ltd
- Kingshay Farming
A further 130 companies are members of the Centre including large supermarkets, food producers, farmers, processors, and engineering and technology businesses.
Research and expertise
Telford and Wrekin is home to Ni.PARK - a new industrial innovation park solely for agri-tech companies. It offers incubation space and high specification manufacturing and research units.
The ‘Hands Free Farm’ is a collaborative research project between academia and industry, located at HAU’s own farm. It was the first venue in the world to plant, tend, and harvest crops using only autonomous vehicles and drones. The project has grown from 1 hectare in 2017 to 35 hectares and 5 fields in 2021. A fleet of autonomous small vehicles are operated from the farm office, ready for commercialisation.
The new Agri-EPI Centre building at HAU is designed to accommodate research and development projects ranging from traditional engineering to robotics, automation, laser technology, sensor development, and software development.
The Midlands is at the forefront of technologies such as industrial digitisation, life sciences and alternative fuels. It's home to world-class assets and centres of innovative excellence. The region is ideally placed for the distribution of manufactured goods, reaching 92% of the UK population within 4 hours. Birmingham is at the heart of one of the UK’s largest infrastructure projects, HS2, and hosted the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Enabling clean growth
There is a clear need to develop farm productivity and profitability in the future, due to:
- anticipated population growth over the next 30 years
- increasing urbanisation
- changing dietary habits
- the challenge of more volatile climatic conditions
- stalling outputs in some areas of agricultural production
Advanced technologies such as those being developed in Telford and Wrekin can improve food production while reducing the environmental impact of farming.
Local and national government support
The UK government has committed to being at the forefront of the global move to high-efficiency and sustainable agriculture.
Local partners offer development-ready land deals, innovation support, and collaboration and partnership opportunities with a rich network of local agri-tech enterprises.
GrowUp is at the forefront of Controlled Environment Production (CEP) research. CEP will play a key role in transforming UK agriculture by reducing environmental impacts and strengthening our resilience to climate change.
It is based at the Agri-EPI Centre at Harper Adams University and produces food with:
95% less water
77% less carbon
60% less waste
zero agricultural runoff
Earth Rover was established in partnership with Harper Adams University and the RAL Space Autonomous Systems Group. It has developed autonomous solar-powered farming robots that adapt to carry precision tools, kill weeds with clean radiant light energy, and integrate with an intelligent data platform.
School for Sustainable Food and Farming
The School for Sustainable Food and Farming is supported by Morrisons, along with co-partners RAFT Solutions Ltd and the NFU. It uses academic and practical expertise, as well as industry networks, to develop knowledge and skills for farmers and related businesses who are committed to reducing the environmental impact of food production.
The school examines the wider aspects of sustainability including biodiversity, animal welfare, green energy production, and farm profitability.
Pickstock Telford is a supplier of quality British beef to international food service professionals, wholesalers and retailers.
To meet its ambition of carbon neutrality by 2030, Pickstock’s Brongain Farm has invested in a rotational grazing platform and aims to produce better quality forage for cattle. It will do this using home-grown protein and better soil and land management that can increase carbon sequestration from the atmosphere.
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