The United Kingdom has always been at the forefront of agri-revolution and innovation for centuries. From innovative farm practices in the 18th century to research of new cultivation practices during the green revolution, the United Kingdom has always shown the world how to optimize farming operations for maximum production.
The agritech sector in the UK employs more than 5,00,000 people and contributes £14.3 billion in the UK economy. The government is planning to invest an additional amount of £90 million by the end of 2018, paving way for greater innovation and growth in the coming years.
For years, the UK has dominated the agricultural landscape of the European Union with a total share of over 7%. With the possibility of Brexit becoming more and more concrete, the UK has greater opportunities to continue its dominant position in agriculture segment and fuel the baton of agritech innovation in the country. Let’s look at how the United Kingdom is slowly inching towards being a global agritech leader.
Brexit has opened spectacular avenues for development and innovation in the field of agriculture. According to the previous Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Andrea Leadsom, the Brexit will pave way for agricultural subsidies that honour and reward innovation in agritech. The UK is committed to promoting the use of technology for modernization without having to deal with concerns about the impact on employment as in other EU countries post-Brexit.
Without the European Union in the scene, the UK will be able to regulate the domestic agriculture landscape with complete charge. Already, efforts are being made to standardize an innovation system in the whole of Europe. But the UK, driven by its bid to leave the European Union will be in a better position to implement strategies, offer subsidies and promote additional investments. This will fuel an environment of greater technological adoption, making the UK’s agricultural segment more tech-driven than its counterparts in Europe.
Exit from the European Union has enabled the UK to scrap rules and laws that limit innovation in the field of agriculture. One of the most criticized of them is the precautionary principle that does not allow new technologies to enter the segment even when there are no scientific reasons associated with risks involved.
For example, the use of genetically-modified (GM) organisms and crops in agriculture could be allowed and licensed. For years, the UK has been vocal in criticizing EU’s stance and opposed the regulations that have been limiting growth. According to George Eustice, the Minister of State for Agriculture has already stated in the parliament that there is a need to move away from EU’s precautionary principle towards science-based and pragmatic regulations. Though this might not mean a sudden shift towards GM crops and other technologies, the move will be on the cards in the future.
The government in the UK is known to invest heavily in agritech research and development, traditionally. On top of it, private funding has also paved way for innovation. As per the available data published by the government, public investment in agritech research was around £320 million in the year 2012-13. During the same period, an amount of £500 million was invested by private bodies.
Along with everything happening domestically, the UK has been the recipient of investments from the EU research funding for agricultural innovation. With Brexit on cards, the funding from EU will surely decline but the constant focus of public and private bodies will continue to take Britan’s agricultural economy to greater heights.
Brexit will have an impact on the UK’s stance towards agriculture. But with the opportunity to frame a new agriculture policy in almost half-a-century will prompt the UK to drive higher levels of innovation. The way ahead will definitely be towards transforming agriculture segment through positive policy changes that will boost productivity and give farmers a chance to shift towards green technology. All the factors stated above, along with keen interest from the private sector is making the United Kingdom an agricultural superpower, ready to rule the agritech landscape in the coming decades and show the world how agriculture is modernized.