The Food Enterprise Park: Norfolk and Suffolk’s new hub for agri-food innovation

In our latest article celebrating Agri-Tech Week, we take a look at the Food Enterprise Park; a game-changing site for the agri-food sector in the region.

East Anglia already plays a vital role feeding the nation, and the developers a new agri-food centre of excellence for the region believe it can provide a catalyst for further growth.

The Food Enterprise Park is a 100-acre site which sits inside Greater Norwich Food Enterprise Zone, located just outside Norwich at Honingham Thorpe Farms, adjacent to the A47.

It offers space for established and growing companies working in agri-food, agri-tech and related industries.

Clarke Willis is part of the team developing the park, and says it will be a showcase for Norfolk and Suffolk’s £3.9bn agri-food sector.

“Norfolk and Suffolk is one of the largest food producing areas in the country, but our challenge is we haven’t been adding value to that,” he says. “Most of the food we produce is exported elsewhere to be processed.

“We want to connect what farmers are growing to their end markets, and part of this will involve bringing more businesses here and helping companies in the region to grow.”

The 100-acre Food Enterprise Park site

The first development at the site will be on stream by the end of the year, with work starting on a state-of-the-art dry mustard and mint milling facility, which will be operated by Condimentum Ltd, a consortium of growers. It will supply all the mint and mustard for Colman’s products, as part of a long-term deal signed with Unilever, Colman’s parent company.

“The dry mustard milling tower is quite rare, there are only three others in the world, all in North America,” Clarke explains.

As well as supporting established companies, the Food Enterprise Park will provide an environment perfect for the next generation of businesses to grow and flourish.

“It’s important we support the dozens of small farmers and start-ups who are working out of people’s kitchens and garages developing new food processes,” Clarke says.

“At the moment they can’t go into the food supply chain because their kitchens don’t meet food safety standards, which is why we’re developing a Food Innovation Hub.

“This will be 35,000 square feet, with food grade space for early start companies, test kitchens, and a whole range of support services.”

A partnership between Norfolk County Council, South Norfolk District Council, Broadland District Council and the New Anglia LEP, the Food Enterprise Park site benefits from a Local Development Order (LDO) designed to support sustainable growth of the county’s agri-food sector.

The LDO grants planning permission on the first 46 acres for specific development related to the food industry, meaning that it is not necessary to submit planning applications for proposals. This considerably fast-tracks the development process.

As well as helping businesses, the Food Enterprise Park will play a role in nurturing the next generation of agri-food talent, with a training and development programme being run in association with University of East Anglia, City College Norwich and the nearby Easton College.

As former CEO of Anglia Farmers, an organisation he ran successfully for 16 years, Clarke is well aware of the importance of the agri-food industry to the local economy.

“Crops worth £1 at the farmgate are worth £5 in added value at first stage processing in the supply chain, and we need to keep more of that in the region,” he concludes.

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