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68. What is the future for Agriculture, Horticulture and Agri Tech in Worcestershire?

For centuries the Vale of Evesham and Worcestershire has been regarded as the fruit and vegetable basket of England and has provided fertile soil that supports local entrepreneurial growing and agricultural communities many of whom now use the latest agricultural technologies. Worcestershire County Council and the Worcestershire Agri Working Group knew they had a dynamic sector that had a unique combination of heritage and modern farming methods and technologies. But they wanted to be able to tell their story convincingly to funders and partners alike. The County commissioned Kada to gain a deep understanding of the economic performance, investment opportunities, challenges and prospects of the sector. This analysis informed some concrete, co-designed high impact measures in the form of an action plan designed to capture people’s interest, stimulate activity and address some of the concerns and opportunities raised.

We produced a suite of reports for the Group which included an assessment of changing agricultural policy and a detailed review of global markets and trends affecting the sector. This first report looked at market opportunities and then quantified the sector in terms of employment, GVA and business make-up. We also mapped the County’s key assets. In a second report we presented the findings from primary research with local businesses following in-depth qualitative discussions with stakeholders. We spoke to CEOs and leading figures from the industry. The steering group really helped open some doors for us stakeholder wise and gave us feedback throughout on what questions to ask and their thoughts on our emerging findings. We really enjoyed talking to farmers, growers and horticulturalists about their achievements, challenges, hopes and fears. There are some really inspiring stories in this report.

For report three we did something that is really hard. We managed to survey 68 business who spend much of the day in the fields or glasshouses. This was fascinating and very illuminating. We gained a granular understanding of the labour market and seasonal workers, their economic position and their challenges from Covid, to the supermarket and pricing to organic farming and soil health. We discussed international trade and technology adoption (attitudes, benefits and barriers). We concluded with their future priorities.

By this stage we had such strong material that the action plan in report four almost wrote itself. For instance, the sector called for advice on adaptations in response shifts in policy and capital investment to improve productivity, There was an appetite to initiate new innovations and better collaboration. The development of a skilled workforce and low carbon solution opportunities were also emphasised.

If you are thinking about commissioning a sector study or action plan or would like to talk through an idea or hear about this work, you can contact us at karl.dalgleish@kadaresearch.co.uk or sabrina@kadaresearch.co.uk

“This study was one of the most detailed sector studies I have ever been involved with. The client, a now retired self-confessed skateboarding punk rocker, managed to mobilise the right stakeholders and engage them at every key stage of the research. This meant they were invested in the findings and verified and refined the proposed actions.”

Karl Dalgleish, Study Director, Kada Managing Director.