GKM research vouchers up to £15,000 awarded to innovative businesses
21st February 2023
Growing Kent & Medway (GKM) has awarded a total of £154,000 funding in the form of research vouchers to 11 horticulture, food and drink businesses for projects aiming to overcome sustainability challenges.
The vouchers provide businesses access to the technical expertise and testing facilities at three cutting-edge research centres in Kent and Medway:
- GreenTech Hub for Advanced Horticulture at NIAB, East Malling
- Medway Food Innovation Centre at the University of Greenwich
- The Biotechnology Hub for Sustainable Food and Drink at the University of Kent
The support provided will help businesses test new prototype products, trial new technology or get data to validate an idea.
Among the winners were fruit growers, packaging suppliers, food processors, ag-tech pioneers, and start-ups working with alternative proteins. The projects, ranging from reducing plastic in fruit punnets, cutting energy use in food processing, to extracting plant proteins from seaweed, all take innovative approaches to improving sustainability.
Each winning project will address a specific challenge within the following areas:
- energy use
- sustainable packaging
- reducing food waste
- alternative proteins
- sustainable crop production
Dr Nikki Harrison, programme director for Growing Kent & Medway, said: “Our voucher scheme is a great way for businesses to work with leading research organisations for the first time. We hope they will lead to further collaborations in the future.
“We were impressed with the innovative ideas submitted,” she continued, “which all have the potential to help make horticultural and food and drink production in the UK more sustainable.”
Siobhan Parks, new business and product development manager at Sharpak Aylesham Ltd, said the funding will go towards helping retailers reduce GHG emissions and food waste.
“We applied for a voucher to receive technical research support from the University of Kent for a new packaging technology for raspberries. We’re testing whether a recyclable novel punnet will extend the shelf-life of raspberries, compared to punnets containing the standard soaker pads currently on the market.
“If successful, it will offer a viable alternative to retailers looking to meet their Plastic Pact UK pledges, help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving the circular economy of plastics, and simultaneously reducing food waste,” she explained.
Meanwhile, ag-tech company Verdant Carbon secured a grant to better understand the link between soil health and carbon capture in different farming scenarios. Co-founder Frank Gollins highlighted that, while soil microbiology is fundamental to determining the viability of agricultural soils, it remains poorly understood.
“This grant will hopefully form a first step for further partnerships, exploring the role of a vital, yet often overlooked farm resource,” he said.
Growing Kent & Medway will be announcing new grant opportunities, as well as a second round of Business Innovation Voucher funding for local businesses later this year.