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Innovation Campus plans could bear fruit

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Plans for the first phase of an Innovation Campus at NIAB EMR in East Malling, which will see the development of an Advanced Technology Horticultural Zone, have been submitted to Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council.

The application for the new science building proposes the multi-million pound development of four state-of-the-art glasshouses supported by an energy centre and other related facilities and infrastructure.

Expected to generate in excess of £2.3m of additional R&D spend in the region, the campus will support scientific advancements and development of new technology-based systems for the horticulture industry. It will also create new jobs throughout the industry and safeguard existing ones at the site.

With their state-of-the-art design, the greenhouses will incorporate high-tech imaging, robotics, precision irrigation rigs, research-standard LED lighting and C02 systems to help scientists make advances in horticultural agronomy.

Commenting on the application, Professor Mario Caccamo, Managing Director of NIAB EMR, said: “This is the next exciting stage in delivering on our promise to continue world-class research, innovation and advances for the UK’s horticultural industry from here in Kent.

“There’s been a centre of plant research excellence at East Malling for more than a century and this major investment, funded by ourselves and East Malling Trust, will ensure we have the world-class facilities to retain our national and international capabilities.”

The greenhouses will improve the quality of the research undertaken by the scientists at NIAB EMR as they are able to facilitate the implementation of new systems and science-based digital tools that aren’t possible in the existing buildings and enabling more accurate research than under field trial conditions.

Oliver Doubleday, Chairman of East Malling Trust, added: “The existing research campus facilities and infrastructure are badly in need of upgrading and we have taken the decision to accelerate the investment in phase 1. This will ensure Kent remains at the cutting edge of research and innovation and to help our scientific community secure public and private sector funding by having access to excellent facilities.

“The aim is to release land that is no longer required for field trials to be used for residential development with applications already being considered by the council and invest the money to deliver the Innovation Campus. Once complete the campus would see the replacement of many buildings no longer suitable and the quadrupling of the current laboratory and office space.”

The glasshouses will be used by the scientists at NIAB EMR to develop new varieties and improve plant health and resistance to disease by undertaking controlled trials in crop production, breeding pathology, entomology and plant health.

Further information on the Advanced Technology Horticultural Zone application can be found by searching for TM/19/01813/FL in the planning section of www.tmbc.gov.uk.

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