Professional Services ‘Barn4’ incubator launched

for agritech start-ups • State-of-the-art workspace facilities • Work will ultimately benefit farmers • First tenants will move in from 2021


tart-up agritech business- es will have access to new work and research facilities

following the launch of Barn4 – a purpose-built facility on the out- skirts of Cambridge. The crop research organisa- tion NIAB has been awarded £2.5m from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Au- thority to construct a 375m2


ness incubator on its Park Farm site at Histon, north of the city. Barn4 will be open to tenants from spring 2021. It will include laboratory, workshops and office space, meeting rooms and vid- eo-conferencing facilities. Ten- ants will also be given access to NIAB’s specialist laboratory fa- cilities, including indoor and out- door growing space.

Strong demand

Demand in Cambridge remains strong for these facilities despite the impact of Covid-19 on office working. The local agritech sec- tor continues to grow but incuba- tor space in and around the city is heavily over-subscribed. The offering of state-of-the-art

technical facilities and links to NIAB, the Cambridge technolo-

The £2.5m is being built at NIAB’s Park Farm site near Cambridge

gy cluster and the wider agricul- tural sector aims to encourage the development of early stage com- panies, helping them to grow and flourish. Juno McKee, director of NIAB

Ventures, said Barn4 would pro- vide facilities for up to 15 com- panies with 45 staff. “NIAB will work with a network of commer- cial and academic partners to pro- vide a complete ecosystem within which technology driven start- ups and spinouts can thrive.” The new building will be an addition to NIAB’s recently rede- veloped Park Farm field research

station. It includes two new large research and office buildings, re- search glasshouses, trial plots and an area of protected outdoor growing space.

Expert advice

The Barn4 initiative aims to fill a gap identified in a study car- ried out for NIAB by Cambridge University’s Judge Institute. It showed that agritech start-ups felt they could benefit from sec- tor specific technical expertise and advice.

NIAB commercialisation di- rector Michael Gifford said: “It

“ We are

thinking about agritech in its widest sense

allows companies to access Cam- bridge’s unrivalled technology sector and university while also being on the doorstep of some of the most fertile farmland and pro- gressive farmers in the world.” Agriculture was under enor-

mous pressure to redefine its farming and food supply chains, said Dr Gifford. Challenges in- cluded Covid-19, Brexit, the new Agriculture Bill, climate change and the issue of food security. Part of the solution was to ac- celerate the pace at which the sec- tor commercialises and adopts new agritech innovations to de- liver sustainable change. To date there had been gaps in support for start-ups including access to sector specific expertise.

Specialist firms Dr Gifford said: “We are think- ing about agritech in its widest sense and expect to have compa- nies specialising in plant genet- ics, pest management, soil health, and AI to support sustainable farming decisions, farm robotics and much more.”

Regional growth minister Si- mon Clarke MP said investing in innovative agritech projects was at the heart of the govern- ment’s commitment to creating new, green jobs and reaching its target of Net-Zero by 2050. “That is why we are invest- ing £2.5 million from the Local Growth Fund in this exciting pro- ject to create space for start-ups and small businesses in Cam- bridgeshire to grow and innovate, creating new jobs for the region and supporting this world-lead- ing centre for agritech.”

Energy reminder for landlords with listed buildings

Landlords worried about meeting updated energy efficiency rules if they rent out listed and heritage properties are reminded that they may be eligible to apply for a tem- porary exemption.

Despite the introduc- tion of Minimum Energy Effi- ciency Standards (MEES) in 2018, there is still confusion among some landlords over rules for listed property or buildings within a con-

servation area, say property spe- cialists Strutt & Parker. MEES rules generally require let homes to have an Energy Per- formance Certificate (EPC) rating of E or above. But landlords – par- ticularly those renting out older, listed properties on farms and ru- ral estates – can find it challenging to achieve this standard. “Landlords of such properties can find themselves in a tight cor-

ner when juggling new EPC ob- ligations and the costs of carry- ing out comprehensive schedules of work to increase EPC ratings,” says Russell de Beer, director in the Norwich office of Strutt & Parker. Fortunately, allowances within the legislation can help, says Mr De Beer. Rural landlords coulc ap- ply for one of six different exemp- tion types, he added. Once regis-

tered, exemptions remain valid for five years – during which time the property can be improved. “We have successfully regis- tered several listed and period homes using this exemption ser- vice, on the basis that a recom- mended wall insulation meas- ure would have a negative impact on the building or that the prop- erty would be devalued by more than 5%.”


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