‘Cornerstone of Lincolnshire Economy’ – Parliamentary Report Calls for Comprehensive Review into Horticulture Research and Development

6 November 2023

Written by: Tim Marks

 The University of Lincoln, UK, has contributed to a new Parliamentary report which aims to promote and support the UK’s horticulture industry.

The University of Lincoln, UK, has contributed to a new Parliamentary report which aims to promote and support the UK’s horticulture industry.


The House of Lords Horticultural Sector Committee’s report ’Sowing the seeds: A blooming English horticultural sector’ was published on Monday 6 November.


The horticulture industry is nationally significant but also a cornerstone of the Lincolnshire economy.


Professor Simon Pearson, Director of Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology (LIAT), contributed to the report which highlights five key areas to develop England’s Horticulture potential, with research and development being a critical focus.


The report states; “The University of Lincoln’s Professor Pearson told us that “the last 20 years have seen a vector of decline in UK horticultural science” and that whilst it retains “elements of world leadership”, it can no longer be said, on the whole, to be “world class”. He called for a “comprehensive review” of the funding landscape and future direction of R&D”.


Prof Pearson co-chaired Defra’s Automation in Horticulture Review with the then Environment Secretary George Eustice, published in July 2022. The review explored how the horticulture sector can make use of innovative technologies such as packhouse automation, AI-enabled robotics and autonomous guided vehicles to help with tasks like the picking, packing and transporting of fruit, vegetables and flowers.


The new report advises that “The Government must accept the recommendations of the Automation in Horticulture review and should undertake a comprehensive review of the future direction of research and development in horticulture and its funding.”


The University of Lincoln, UK, in collaboration with partner institutions – University of Aberdeen, Queen’s University Belfast and University of Strathclyde – has recently successfully secured £10.6M in funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to establish SUSTAIN, a transformative Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) to support innovative research in the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to sustainable agri-food.


Prof Simon Pearson said: “I welcome the report’s findings and we at Lincoln hope to help formulate a detailed horticulture strategy for England. As stated, new technologies and AI provide exciting opportunities, but will require significant investment and are wholly dependent on complete collaboration between academia, research institutions, the Government and growers.


“LIAT is here to support and enhance the future of food and agriculture productivity, efficiency and sustainability. We will continue to push for these recommendations to the taken forward to best support colleagues in the industry.”


The House of Lords enquiry heard from more than 60 witnesses, received almost 100 written evidence submissions, and visited horticultural businesses at home and overseas.

Read the Committee’s report summary here: https://ukparliament.shorthandstories.com/horticulture-sector-lords-report and watch the report animation video here: https://twitter.com/HLHorticulture/status/1721453025552683219