Keen to demonstrate their commitment to food safety and sustainable food production, Innovation Agri-Tech Group (IAG) is one of the largest and first vertical farms in the UK to be certified to Red Tractor’s Fresh Produce Standard. We met with Kate Brunswick, Business Development Director at IAG to hear about their journey to certification with SAI Global.
Innovation Agri-Tech Group (IAG) is a British Agri-Tech company based in Berkshire, providing patented vertical farming solutions. The company challenges some of the biggest issues facing modern farming: sustainability and food security. Since their founding in 2016, they have built an expert team and developed one of the largest vertical farms in the UK. Using aeroponic growing techniques, the company produces an extensive variety of salad, herbs and more for several different markets.
What benefits has certification brought to your business?
- Strengthened company culture: As a relatively new team with varied backgrounds in different industries, being able to work towards a common goal across all areas of the business has brought the team together and bolstered our company culture.
- Improved processes: While undertaking the Red Tractor certification, we had to analyse and refine multiple areas of the business. This has improved our personal confidence in our processes and provides a constant framework for comparison. An element of the paperwork has also been used as an efficient training tool for our new starters.
- Improved operational efficiencies: The process of fresh produce assurance has given us the framework to install a strong internal documentation infrastructure, which has massively boosted the efficiency and consistency of our operations.
- Increased focus on sustainability and environmental protection – a critical aspect of vertical farming. Our Bracknell site sits on fifteen acres of fallow countryside and the environmental management plan we have created using the Red Tractor framework and guidelines is allowing us to protect this environment, as well as utilise available spaces for alternative energy sources for the farm.
- Strengthened self-audit evaluation: Often vision can be clouded from those inside the business, possibly from being too close to the process. Certification has led to us to be more skilled in identifying errors in our systems from within.
Once we had decided on Red Tractor, we realised we were starting from ground zero in terms of relevant SOP’s and standardised paperwork. In some ways this worked in our favour, as a team we were unified to start the journey together without any preconceived ideas. The process is always clear if you make use of the informative online support and tools.
- Read as much as you can before you begin
- Allocate team responsibilities
- Plan regular meetings and updates
- Use the excellent online tools for support along the way
- Keep eyes wide open – manage expectation in terms of time allocation, prior to success.