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Innovation campus plans for East Malling research station

Plans for the first phase of an Innovation Campus at NIAB EMR in East Malling, have been submitted to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.

The application will see the development of an "advanced technology horticultural zone" to include four state-of-the-art glasshouses and an "energy centre" - but could also mean more homes are on the way to pay for it.

The Advanced Horticultural Technology Zone - an artist's impression (16124035)
The Advanced Horticultural Technology Zone - an artist's impression (16124035)

The campus will hopefully generate in excess of £2.3m of additional research and development spend in the region, as the campus will support scientific and technology-based systems for the horticulture industry.

The company said the centre would create new jobs throughout the industry and safeguard existing ones at the site.

The greenhouses will incorporate hi-tech imaging, robotics, precision irrigation rigs, research-standard LED lighting and C02 systems to help scientists make advances in horticultural agronomy.

Professor Mario Caccamo, the managing director of NIAB EMR, said: “This is the next exciting stage in delivering on our promise to continue world-class research, innovation and advances for the UK’s horticultural industry from here in Kent.

“There’s been a centre of plant research excellence at East Malling for more than a century and this major investment, funded by ourselves and East Malling Trust, will ensure we have the world-class facilities to retain our national and international capabilities.”

The East Malling Research Centre as it is now
The East Malling Research Centre as it is now

Oliver Doubleday, the chairman of the East Malling Trust, said: “The existing research campus facilities and infrastructure are badly in need of upgrading and we have taken the decision to accelerate the investment in phase 1.

"This will ensure Kent remains at the cutting edge of research and innovation and to help our scientific community secure public and private sector funding by having access to excellent facilities.

“Our aim is to release land that is no longer required for field trials to be used for residential development with applications already being considered by the council and invest the money to deliver the Innovation Campus.

"Once complete the campus would see the replacement of many buildings no longer suitable and the quadrupling of the current laboratory and office space.”

The glasshouses will be used by the scientists at NIAB EMR to develop new varieties and improve plant health and resistance to disease by undertaking controlled trials in crop production, breeding pathology, entomology and plant health.

Application number 19/01813 refers.

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