Start-up agritech businesses will have access to new work and research facilities, alongside business support opportunities, with the development of Barn4, a purpose-built facility on the outskirts of Cambridge.
The crop research organisation NIAB has been awarded £2.5 million funding from The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to construct a 375m2 business incubator on its Park Farm site in Histon in Cambridgeshire.
Barn4 will be open to tenants from spring 2021 with start-ups and SMEs offered laboratory, workshop and office space, meeting rooms and video-conferencing facilities. In addition, they will be able to get access to NIAB’s high performance computing capability, specialist laboratory facilities and both indoor and outdoor growing spaces.
Description automatically generated Dr Juno McKee, Director of NIAB Ventures, says that Barn4 will provide facilities for up to 15 companies with 45 staff. “NIAB will work with a network of commercial and academic partners to provide a complete ecosystem within which technology driven start-ups and spinouts can thrive.”
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Mayor James Palmer says, “Agritech is one of our key growth areas and I am absolutely delighted that the Combined Authority has enabled NIAB to create Barn4, which will help the sector expand and flourish. I am passionate about supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and Barn4’s nurturing environment for young companies will help ground-breaking startups to flourish. I look forward to seeing the birth of world-leading technical solutions to agricultural challenges and opportunities as Barn4 opens and develops from 2021.”
The new building will be an addition to NIAB’s recently redeveloped Park Farm field research station which includes two new large research and office buildings (5,500 m2), 2,500 m2 of research glasshouses with an additional 300m2 planned, 3,000m2 protected outdoor growing space and field trial plots.
NIAB’s Director of Commercialisation Dr Michael Gifford explains that, in the face of challenges such as Covid-19, Brexit, the new Agriculture Bill, climate change and food security, the UK agrifood industry is under enormous pressure to redefine its farming and food supply chains. One way is to accelerate the pace at which it commercialises and adopts new agritech innovations to deliver sustainable change.