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Environmental Audit Committee accepts PPP evidence submission on AgriTech

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Experts have called on the government to re-assess approaches to the development and application of agricultural technologies or risk failing to decarbonise the sector.

Key findings

  • Recommendations of new PPP report accepted in the Environmental Audit Committee’s call for evidence on environmental change and food security
  • Report calls for AgriTech to become an area of priority in the net zero transition  
  • AgriTech will play an essential role in decarbonising the food system, and supporting a green transition in other sectors   
  • Experts gathered to call for a revamped approach to innovation and implementation within the agriculture sector  

Innovation in the food supply chain: Unlocking AgriTech for net zero, sets out a series of recommendations for the government to achieve its ambitions of decarbonising food production, while also improving food security and delivering net zero across the UK by 2050.   

The findings of this report, published in partnership with Bayer Crop Science and the Agri-EPI Centre, have been accepted as evidence to The Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into environmental change and food security (Environmental Change and Food Security: call for evidence). 

A version of this report was submitted in response to three key questions from the Committee’s call for evidence:

  • Does the government’s Food Strategy put the UK on a path to a secure and sustainable food supply?
  • What role do food technologies have in mitigating the risks that environmental changes poses to UK food security?
  • Is there research and development the government could be funding to provide food security solutions?

Accordingly, PPP’s submission highlights the need for a revision to AgriTech innovation and implementation processes in order to meet the ambitions of improving food security and nutrition while reducing emissions from agriculture, as set out in the Government’s Food Strategy. PPP have called for government to provide greater clarity on the sector’s priorities, and to revise trialling requirements to improve the efficacy of innovation processes. The report also highlights the importance of improving data collection and analysis in order to provide a more complete picture of the impacts of mitigations and adaptations.   

The full version of the 41-page report, containing 14 recommendations, also highlights the important role of consumers in innovation pathways and offers suggestions to improve trust between them and the sector.  

The UK government has set forward the ambitious plan of delivering net zero by 2050 and doing so while increasing the quality and quantity of agricultural production. The NFU has pushed for an even more progressive target, aiming to reach net zero emissions in English and Welsh agriculture by 2040. The report argues that these ambitions will not be achievable unless the UK is able to improve the efficiency of the processes that deliver emissions-saving technologies to farmers.   

Independent research undertaken by NFU Mutual in 2022 found that nearly half of farmers chose not to invest in AgriTech because of a ‘lack of knowledge’. Improving departmental coordination and providing clarity to the supply chain will require a clear plan for AgriTech’s development, which the report argues does not currently exist. Closer collaboration will enable a more fluid and consistent exchange of knowledge in the sector, which the report finds to be a key determinant of AgriTech support.   


Mark Buckingham, Corporate Engagement Leader UK & Ireland, said: “Innovation in breeding and genetics is essential to both reduce the carbon footprint of food production and give farmers a choice of seed varieties which can grow well in a changing climate.”  

Mr. Buckingham also noted: “Faced with climate change, it’s vital we don’t miss opportunities to decarbonize, protect nature and deliver safe affordable food; regulation needs to be proportionate and enable, rather than block, access to innovation.”  

Dave Ross, Agri-EPI, CEO, said: “Net zero is the ultimate ambition and the agri-food supply chain must play its part in both reductions, and sequestering carbon back while supporting food security. The report rightly recognises the lifeblood of innovations require resources and partnerships with our industry base, linked with key knowledge partners. We fully support the recommendations to continue and indeed increase this support, to meet the challenge of future GHG reductions. We are grateful for the opportunity to co-sponsor.”  

Trish Toop, Chief Technical Officer, Agri-EPI said: “Precision engineering solutions and data have a role to play in supporting the journey to net zero. In our recent AgriTech survey, which is highlighted in the report, found that over 60% of UK farmers believed AgriTech solutions will aid their sustainable productivity, but some farmers were not clear about specific net zero benefit. So there, is work to be done still, to provide this evidence and support.”  

Simon Pearson, Professor of Agri-Food Technology and Director of Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology, said: “The global AgriFood supply chain emits up to 37 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions, including 43MTCO2e from UK primary agriculture. At the same time society is facing exceptionally high food price inflation. The food sector needs to urgently step change its economic and environmental productivity. This PPP report is essential reading, with clear strategies for how the UK can step change and secure its position as world leaders in agricultural technology.”  

Innovation in the food supply chain: Unlocking AgriTech for net zero is a part of PPP’s net zero programme. The full report can be read here.  

Key recommendations from the report include:    

  • The National Science and Technology Council should include the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and should seek to evaluate the impacts of continued AgriTech investment in the context of the UK’s broader net zero ambitions.   
  • UKRI should seek to support the development of key products through the creation of Small Business Research Initiatives (SBRI). These initiatives would seek to finance solutions to specific blockers currently problematising the decarbonisation of the UK’s food system.   
  • The AHDB should be encouraged to establish a single What Works Network to monitor the effect of policy and practice on farming and diets. Though this single centre would be tasked with tracking a broad range of impacts, a single centre for the assessment of policy would help to break down silos within the sector and would encourage policymakers and industry to better represent the relationship between the production and consumption of food.   
  • Defra should embed novel data collection, sharing processes and requirements into environmental land management schemes – thereby streamlining reporting processes and providing clarity for data capture for farmers.   
  • Working with the FSA, Defra should establish a series of case studies to encourage support of the Food Data Transparency Partnership as a decentralised library linking data collected from throughout the supply chain. Key insights gleaned via the Food Data Transparency Partnership should be made available on centralised libraries such as the AHDB’s planned What Works Centre.   
  • The Rural Payments Agency should seek to establish a carbon credit scheme for farmers driven by the insights reported through environmental land management schemes. This would ensure farmers see clear benefits to increased reporting and implementation. Credit trading, however, should be closely monitored to ensure that agricultural production is maintained and not disincentivised.   
  • The UKRI and BBSRC should establish new guidance for the trialling of novel AgriTech products, such that they encompass metrics pertaining to sustainability value alongside more traditional metrics. A National AgriTech Trialling Advisory Group should be temporarily created through UKRI and BBSRC, in conjunction with the Advisory Committee for Releases to the Environment (ACRE), to inform stakeholders of updates to the process of getting new products into trials under updated regulation.   
  • Considering Defra’s success in establishing a consistent definition for precision bred organisms, the department should continue to review inherited regulation of other technologies currently restricted by the regulation of GMOs.   
  • Defra should publish revised labelling guidance for retailers to encourage greater consumer awareness of the sustainability impacts of products. A timeline for the integration of kg CO2e cost (per tonne or kg) data into labels should be developed.