GovGrant, the innovation tax specialist that helps businesses secure tax breaks for their R&D and intellectual property, has targeted ‘vertical farming’ for future business development. GovGrant CEO Luke Hamm said that vertical farming provides ethical solutions to the problems of mass population, as well as practical opportunities to commercialise food production by adopting new practices in an industry that hasn’t much changed for thousands of years.
He said: “Land is suffering accelerated degradation as a result of population growth, pollution and deforestation, and if this trend continues, 95% of the land mass of the earth could become degraded by 2050.
In the UK, the Sustainable Food Trust says the country only has enough soil left for 100 harvests and the loss of soil carbon costs over £3.2bn annually. UK cropland has lost 40-60% of organic carbon to the atmosphere, greatly increasing the threat of global warming.
“Real systemic change is needed in the way land is managed and our food is produced, including vertical farming – where our food is grown upwards, rather than outwards. Another benefit of vertical farming is that it can also be undertaken in or around cities so food can be delivered fresher to consumers and with less miles in terms of transportation, so further cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”
But we need incentives to encourage investment in this sector, and innovation tax credits are one of the UK’s most successful policies for encouraging innovation.
“R&D tax relief is the most generous corporation tax relief currently available to business in the UK, especially for SMEs. They can recover up to a third of their qualifying R&D expenditure.”
Natural catastrophes tend to force governments to act. Luke cited the 2011 Japanese tsunami which, according to a report in the Times, obliterated 5% of Japan’s agricultural land in an hour. The Japanese government asked manufacturers and universities to help solve the crisis, and the answer was ‘that the country needed to free itself from the land.’ Farming moved indoors as warehouses were requisitioned, irrigation and lighting installed and food production turned a corner.
He said: “The parlous state of our planet is a powerful incentive to think differently about food production, but in the UK we are fortunate that the government has also created an opportunity for new-era agritech, such as vertical farms, to plough back their tax credits into further innovation.
“The UK is only 60% self-sufficient in food (NFU) and is importing more food every year from a world that is itself struggling to feed itself. GovGrant can help food producers benefit from their inventions. Let’s not wait for an environmental disaster before acting.
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