Midlands Engine partners launch Food White Paper showcasing region’s leading role in transforming UK food system

Date posted: February 27, 2024
Graphic of the Food White Paper featuring an aerial view of a tractor in a field

Presented for the first time today (27 February) at the unveiling of SmartParc SEGRO Derby’s new energy centre, the Food White Paper is the product of months of collaboration between over 100 food industry partners led by the Midlands Engine Partnership, the Midlands Future Food Alliance and Collison & Associates.

Food industry partners, local and regional leaders, and civil servants attending the launch also heard keynote speeches from Midlands Engine Chairman, Sir John Peace and SmartParc CEO, Jackie Wild.

Addressing the challenges facing our food system

The Food White Paper sets out how the innovation and expertise of the Midlands, with its leading agri-tech clusters, offers the solutions and opportunities necessary for growth in the sector.

The report identifies why the Midlands is so valuable for the UK food system:

  • Home to 52% of the UK’s large food producers
  • Produces more food than any other region
  • Centrally located with 90% of the UK under a four-hour drive away makes it a logistics hub
  • exports £2.1bn per year
  • Generates £32bn in GVA per year
Robot is working in greenhouse with tomatoes. Midlands agri-tech and smart farming 4.0

The Midlands has a leading agri-tech cluster.


Establishing a sustainable strategy for the future of food

Beyond shining a light on the Midlands food system, the Food White Paper identifies eight recommendations that detail how Midlands Engine partners, the food sector and government can work together to create a transformative long-term strategy for sustainable growth. These recommendations focus on:

  • Increasing investment
  • Supporting the agricultural transition
  • Greater business support
  • Greater support for imports and exports
  • Collaboration between Midlands partners and UKRI to foster innovation
  • Designing a supportive workforce arrangement
  • Increasing infrastructure investment in the Midlands
  • Developing a more enabling planning system so food and drink businesses can access the premises and facilities they need to grow sustainably

The Food White Paper draws upon case studies that have formed its evidence base, featuring the expertise and experience of partners.

SmartParc is one such case study which has been at the forefront of developing its sector-leading premises in Derby. Its new energy centre – launched alongside the Food White Paper – will provide a shared, sustainable energy network for all tenants on site.

Elsewhere, Bridge Farm in Spalding, Lincolnshire grows more than 70 million plants each year in a low-carbon, water-efficient glasshouse whilst, on the other side of the Midlands, Hope Ash Farms in Herefordshire measures the regenerative and sustainable effects their farming management practices are having on soil health.

Midlands Engine Chairman, Sir John Peace, said:

“To launch our Food White Paper at SmartParc is the perfect platform to call for the transformation of our food system. Both the report and this extraordinary site are built upon regional collaboration – clear examples of what can be achieved when partners come together to drive their industry forward.

This Food White Paper is another excellent tool we can use as we continue to advocate for the region’s food sector, championing the exceptional strengths and opportunities to be found in the Midlands.”

Read the full Food White Paper here.

Further information about the partners involved in the White Paper can be found here.


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