DEFRA Secretary of State Steve Barclay recently toured the newest vertical farm under the Fischer Farms name in Norwich and offered this positive takeaway of the future of food production in the UK.
“We have some of the world’s leading agri-tech innovators here in the UK, and I’m a firm believer in the potential of technology to help us grow food in a more efficient and sustainable way,” Barclay said at state-of-the-art, 25,000 square-meter facility at Food Enterprise Park. “Fischer Farms are a brilliant example of this – it was fascinating to visit their vertical farm today and see this cutting-edge technology in action.”
Along with several other dignitaries – including Kay Mason Billig, Norfolk County Council Leader; Tom McCabe, CEO of Norfolk County Council; and Chris Starkie, Director of Growth and Investment Norfolk County Council – each got a first-hand glimpse of just how revolutionary the process is.
Among the endless possibilities at this 4-acre site is the ability to supply 6.5 tonnes of leaf salad, leafy herbs and other fresh produce to UK supermarkets and other customers every day. And this without the need for pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Growing in and around East Anglia in this way seems a logical, natural fit.
“When people think of Norfolk, beautiful farmland is often among the first images that comes to mind, but they may not realise the same county is the original home of innovative, technologically driven new ways of growing and processing those crops,” Billig said. “With over 8,000 businesses and almost 80,000 employees in the agriculture, food and drink sector across Norfolk and Suffolk, our county is one of the leading agri-food locations in the country, and it’s been a privilege to help show the Secretary of State just how many lessons the rest of the UK could learn from our businesses here in Norfolk.”
Tristan Fischer, Founder and CEO of Fischer Farms, echoed that sentiment and noted the importance of this moment.
“The Norfolk area is a real hub for agricultural innovation, and we are extremely proud to be a part of this movement,” he said. “The Norwich Food Enterprise Park is a game-changer for businesses like ours and is something that should be replicated in other areas of the UK.”
Fischer talked up his plans to scale up the production of more crops, including soft fruits, peas, wheat, and even rice and soy.
To do that, Fischer and other innovative growers are hoping for an assist from the Government to combine forces and “turbocharge” those outputs. That includes greater support for planning applications linked to renewable energy and a set of accreditation standards, as well as regulations to certify its produce as organic.
“It was a pleasure to welcome Mr Barclay and his colleagues from Norfolk County Council to our new vertical farm, right here in the heart of Norwich, and discuss the opportunity that our industry has to support the agricultural sector as it moves towards a more sustainable and productive future,” Fischer said.