As British farmers charter flights to bring experienced seasonal workers in for this years’ harvest, we question whether the right priority is being put on AgriTech and how it can help secure our food supply.

The potential shortage of seasonal workers shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  This crisis has been brewing since the Brexit vote in 2016, made worse by changes in young people’s working patterns away from field and farming work. The farming industry has regularly highlighted the looming problem. With the first chartered flights landing at Stansted Airport this week, the issue is set to become an acute one for many of our region’s farmers as the first spring crops are approaching harvest in our fields.

The AgriTech industry has been working for solutions to the problem, with local companies like Dogtooth Technologies and Cambridge Consultants developing robotic harvesting technology. Across the industry, these early stage startups are now ready to commercialise and grow at speed.  But the industry is facing a crisis of its own, without space to agglomerate, companies are having to cobble together space on the edges of industrial estates and business parks, which is hampering the opportunity to scale at a fast-enough rate.

The shortage of workers isn’t going to go away. There is work to be done across the region to upskill job-seekers to allow them to take on seasonal farm work, but technology will have an increasingly important role to play.