£600k sustainable food innovation challenge launched

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

GrowUp Farms improved water efficiency by recovering and reusing waste water. Credit: Growing Kent & Medway / GrowUp Farms
GrowUp Farms improved water efficiency by recovering and reusing waste water. Credit: Growing Kent & Medway / GrowUp Farms

Related tags Sustainability

Growing Kent & Medway is offering a share of £600,000 to prospective innovators focused on finding sustainable improvements within the fresh produce, food and drink supply chain.

The Business Sustainability Challenge, which is being run for a second year by research, innovation and enterprise cluster Growing Kent & Medway, will award funding of up to £50,000 for innovative ideas, processes, or technologies that support sustainable production, products and packaging solutions.

Growing Kent & Medway is particularly interested in projects that create circular economies in the horticulture and plant-based food and drink supply chain, with £262,000 awarded to seven separate winners in 2023.

Last year’s winners has ideas ranging from repurposing fruit and vegetable waste, to improving water efficiency and reducing carbon emissions with next-generation technology. The variety of projects focused on ways to reduce the impact of food and drink production systems on the environment, while at the same time, adding value for their business and customers.

This grant scheme has been designed for high-impact, short-term innovative projects and successful applicants will need to match-fund 50% of the total project cost.

‘Past winners prove that innovation drives growth’

Commenting on the launch of the fund for a second year, Dr Nikki Harrison, director for Growing Kent & Medway, said that the South East was “fast becoming the leading region for food innovation​” across the whole of the UK.

This is a testament to the remarkable achievements and ambitions of our horticultural growers, and food and drink businesses​,” Dr Harrison continued.

Our previous winners of the Business Sustainability Challenge have demonstrated that innovation not only drives growth but also creates new markets and revenue streams in the region​.”

Canterbury Brewers & Distillers Ltd received more than £13,000 from the 2023 fund to develop a system that uses their waste grains, energy, water, and carbon dioxide from their brewing process, to produce speciality mushrooms.

Describing the experience of entering the challenge, director Jon Mills said: “After building a heat recovery system that heats our restaurant and bar from waste heat during the distillation process, I realised we could potentially use all our waste from our production of whiskey, beer and gin making.

“The Growing Kent & Medway Business Sustainability grant has allowed us to prove that we can be growing more than 100 kg of speciality mushrooms from our brewing waste. We are excited to see what further success our very own circular economy can have with the potential to bring new mushroom spirits to market​.”

In other news, a food firm has been fined £320k after a man was killed at its site.

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