Case study

The Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub

Learn more about this pioneering centre which specialises in food waste reduction and was set up by NIAB and partners in 2014.


NIAB

In the middle of East Cambridgeshire, set unobtrusively amongst the surrounding fields, is a research centre so forward-thinking that it may just contribute towards our survival in a food-scarce future.

The Eastern Agritech Innovation Hub was opened in 2014 and is based at Hasse Fen near Soham.  The hub was designed as a field/test station dedicated to reducing crop and food waste or channelling that waste into higher grade end products. 

NIAB, who manage the site, work with local and national businesses at the Hub to carry out some very interesting commercial scale pilot studies. These studies enable producers, researchers and waste users to collaborate in developing commercial approaches to waste reduction and management.

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany was founded in 1919 with a mission to provide independent science-based research and information to support, develop and promote agriculture and horticulture; helping the industry to fulfil its potential in supplying food and renewable resources, while respecting the natural environment. With Her Majesty The Queen as patron, NIAB has enjoyed Royal support from its foundation.

 

Food Waste Reduction

There is room to reduce waste all along the food supply chain – from pre consumer right through to us, the end user. 

East Cambridgeshire District Council

The Innovation Hub, which is managed by NIAB, was built in 2014 with £600,000 of growth initiative funding from the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP) and partners, through the Eastern Agritech Growth Initiative.  Darren Hill from East Cambs District Council (one of the partners) sat on the Innovation Hub steering group and you can watch his comments in the video below.

Overview of the hub

There are a number of Associated Businesses at the Innovation Hub.  We met with some of them to learn more about the pioneering work they are undertaking.

Vertical aquaponics using rain water & solar power

Aponic Ltd have developed a vertical soil-less growing system that uses 90% less water than traditional agriculture, runs on rain water and solar power, does not emit harmful run-off into the environment and massively reduces the need for fossil fuels in food production.   In commercial use, the system can turn acreage into volume to expand the growing area within greenhouses – enabling growth on long rows vertically upwards in the footprint of a single plant. 

Acoustic energy and ultrasound assisted processing

Otherwise known as sonobioprocessing (SBP), this is a subject Celbius are experts in. Celbius helps customers to improve their bioprocesses by exposing liquids and slurries to ultrasonic energy. The energy is delivered to the process stream whilst flowing through a sonic pipe and lowers production costs for extractions, fermentations and biotransformations by enabling faster reactions and higher yields. Key applications for the agricultural industry include extraction, for example for natural colours, antioxidants and other bioactives.

Closing the food waste loop

Entomics Biosystems' innovative solution to the world’s rapidly growing population is to 'close the food waste loop' by transforming organic waste into sustainable agricultural inputs, using an indigenous UK insect, the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) as a conversion catalyst. BSF larvae efficiently convert 95% of organic waste into complex fats and proteins in their bodies.  Where landfill releases the carbon in food waste, Entomics’ process captures and concentrates it into sustainable products:  animal feed and fertilizer.

Do your bit

If you and your business would like to learn more about reducing waste, visit www.wrap.org.uk. WRAP works with governments, businesses and communities to deliver practical solutions to improve resource efficiency, and there are many useful resources on their website.

Sources:

entomics.com

celbius.com

aponic.co.uk

innovationhubuk.co.uk

niab.com

gcgp.co.uk/2014/05/new-innovation-centre-for-soham/

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