30 September 2022


The Net Zero Hectare project has secured £2.06 million in funding acquired from The Farming Innovation Programme, run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in cooperation with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). 

The three-year project will work with industry experts in each area and the collaboration will look to tackle the three key areas of emissions in growing ware potato crops: Fertiliser, storage, and transport.

Crop storage technology firm Crop Systems Ltd will be looking at how to improve crop storage energy usage. Using its SmartStor controller it will comprehensively monitor multiple stores and track all aspects of the energy usage minute by minute. This will allow modifications to made driving storage costs down. Another area being advanced by the investment is pre-conditioning potatoes ready for retail during transport. 

The lead partner is Branston, one of the UK’s major suppliers of potatoes for UK retailers and wholesalers as well as providing seed for potato growers. It has sites in Lincoln, Scotland and the Southwest.

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B-hive Innovations, an agri-tech R&D business based in Lincoln which develops technologies for fresh produce industry to increase marketable yield and reduce food waste in the supply chain, is also one of the collaborators.

University of Lincoln lead researchers on the project, Dr Sandra Varga and Dr Iain Gould, said: “This is a unique opportunity to try something that farmers usually are unable to trial owing to capacity and cost limitations. The advances that it could bring will significantly transform the farming industry for the future.”

David Armstrong, a Lincolnshire-based farmer who will be trialling the store and field research said: “Reducing our on-farm carbon emissions is essential for the future of our planet, therefore being involved in a project like this from the start gives us the chance to make a real difference.”

John Stirling, farmer and owner of Arbikie Distillery in Montrose, said: “It is vitally important for us to look at all aspects of our carbon emissions and how we can make things better. This project gives us the opportunity to challenge some conventional thinking across all scopes and look to improve our carbon footprint substantially."

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