Greg Clark: food industry ‘on verge of revolution’

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Clark: ‘food and drink as being one of most important sectors of the future’
Clark: ‘food and drink as being one of most important sectors of the future’
The Government’s chief scientific adviser has been tasked with advising on ways to “significantly raise productivity across the whole food production system”, according to business secretary Greg Clark.

Clark referred to the move in an address given at the Food and Drink Federation Convention 2018, which was held at the British Museum in London on 13 June.

“Back in February, I announced £90m of Industrial Strategy money, bringing together AI​ [artificial intelligence], robotics and earth observation - to improve supply chain resilience in the agri-food sector,”​ he said. “This includes support for ‘innovation accelerators’ charged with exploring the commercial potential of new tech ideas at pace.

“I see food and drink as being one of most important sectors of the future.

“For this reason, I have asked the Government’s chief scientific adviser for advice on the potential opportunities that exist to significantly raise productivity across the whole UK food production system, from agricultural science, to food technology and beyond.”


Clark said he believed the food industry was “on the verge of a revolution”​ to become one of the most technologically intensive sectors.

“When I visit food and drink sites across the UK I’m always struck by the level of scientific precision from the formulation of feed, to the moisture of the soil.

“And if you open the pages of The Grocer or Food Manufacture you see the true face of a sector pushing the boundaries of science and technology like never before.”

He referred to examples such as Ocado using a robot guided by AI to identify all 50,000 different products ordered on its website and adapt its handling to the product type for picking at depots.


He also referenced AI being used by a potato processor to enable it to pinpoint the potatoes that should be turned into chips and those that were more suitable for turning into crisps.

Addressing the topic of exports, Clark said securing frictionless trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland would be 'paramount' in negotiations over the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

He recognised the challenge posed by Rules of Origin legislation potentially hiking up EU tariffs on products containing ingredients from multiple countries, hampering trade with the EU.

“We need to take concerns like this into account, avoiding any unnecessary barriers to trade, including from ‘Rules of Origin’,”​ he said.

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