NIAB

This interview details NIAB, a crop science organization based in the UK. The interview is with Ros Lloyd, Head of Communications at NIAB.

Source: NIAB

What is the origin story of NIAB?

NIAB is one of Britain’s oldest agricultural science research centres. It was established in Cambridge in 1919, originally as the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, a charitable trust to promote the improvement of British crops. This was a direct response to food security issues at that time, particularly in the First World War. In practice, in the early days, this meant NIAB assessing the merits of the new commercial varieties from the recently established ‘Plant Breeding Institute’ and other emerging plant breeders, alongside ensuring seed quality. 

Seed testing and variety evaluation remained at the core of NIAB’s work for the next 70+ years, but with privatization in 1996 and a program of investment, mergers and diversification, the original aspirations of NIAB’s founder, Sir Lawrence Weaver, for the Institute to be an all-purpose scientific institution for agricultural botany, have been fulfilled. Today, NIAB is an internationally recognized leader in applied crop research and innovation, providing an integrated research and knowledge transfer hub addressing the global challenges of food production, climate change and environmental protection. 

Our scientific capabilities span the crop improvement pipeline; from underpinning research required to develop higher yielding more climate resilient crops through to the extensive trial data, agronomy expertise and advice needed to ensure these advances are transferred effectively onto farms. Truly from ‘Better Seeds: Better Crops’ to ‘Plant Science into Practice’.

Source: NIAB

What are some of the biggest challenges facing NIAB in the future?

The challenges that faced the world when NIAB was founded in 1919 still ring true today. We still need to produce healthy, nutritious, safe food for people, at a price they can afford. Which means we need further advancements to improve food security, the way we produce food, and of course, protect our climate and improve biodiversity. But productivity is key; yields must increase.

NIAB is already working in many of these areas, including crop transformation expertise, improved crop genetics research, strategic input advice and regenerative agriculture management practices. Our challenge is to ensure this work gets out onto farm, underpinning the science and helping and supporting farmers and growers in adopting new practices and techniques.

 

What is unique about NIAB compared to other similar groups?

We are ‘Plant Science into Practice’; a translational science institute, sitting between the pure academic, ‘blue-sky’ institutes and universities and the commercial agri-food industry. We have a strong farmer membership base alongside our research capabilities in plant genetics, agronomy, farming systems and data science, the largest national field trials capability, and strong research links with industry, Government and academia. This means we can provide scientific research, technical services and practical advice to improve the yield, efficiency and resilience of crop production across the arable, horticulture and top and soft fruit sectors – unique in the UK.

Plus NIAB is a not-for-profit organisation with a charitable status. We receive no core funding from the government. Instead, our diverse range of funding sources means that we can be truly commercially independent from government, industry and lobbying organizations. And we re-invest any profits straight back into future research.

What are some trends you are seeing in the agritech market?

The agritech market is evolving and maturing. Companies that are starting are more aware of the economics and timescales of the sector and its needs. This has led to changes in focus and also changes in business models. Technologies that look to be gathering pace are those associated with regenerative agriculture and crop genetics. These are in-part driven by recent legislative changes that have increased the value of solutions in these areas. There is also a trend towards data-science businesses though many of them still need to gain market credibility and answer the question of “so-what”, when a data-based insight is presented to a grower.

Source: NIAB

Any exciting announcements or projects in the future you would like to share with us?

NIAB is continuing to work on some of the most exciting and innovative projects in crop sciences. Alongside our traditional role in providing science-based guidance to the agricultural industry, we are developing additional expertise and data to support the move to more sustainable regenerative agricultural practices. We are also looking hard at less traditional UK crops through our flagship Centre for High Carbon Capture Cropping (CHCx3) and our programs on protein crops such as chickpeas and lentils.

How can people connect with you or learn more about NIAB?

niab.com will provide contacts and background to NIAB, plus information on our wide-ranging research programs and the services we provide, alongside links to project and service specific websites. We host a range of open days and events across the year as well as attending trade shows across the UK, with booking available on our Event Hub on niab.com.

Follow us across our range of social media accounts for the latest research information and links, news, vacancies, links to employee content such as blogs, visits, on-farm initiatives, glasshouse and lab activities and project updates, open events and training days, and agronomic and technical updates. 

niab.com   info@niab.com 01223 342200

LinkedIn: NIAB

X: @niabgroup

Facebook: NIAB.UK

Instagram@ NIAB_UK

YouTube: NIAB

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