Key Industry Challenges
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Key Industry Challenges


UK Agriculture has been severely impacted by the trilemma of Brexit, Migrant Labour Cap and the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Manual farm labour is wholly reliant on a migrant workforce which has been reducing year on year, which accelerated in 2020.

Up to 25% of all produce grown is wasted in-field. 

Disruptors in this space:

  • Precision Agriculture
  • Robotic Farming
  • Farming in Controlled Conditions
  • Cultured Meat

MTC is working with opinion leaders in this space from AgriEpiCentre, AgriMetrics through to Lincoln Institute of Agricultural Technology (LIAT), SatApps Catapult and DEFRA.




As an island the UK remains a net importer of fish. The export market is valued at £2bn with salmon making up the largest UK export.

Compared to ruminants, fish are a more efficient and lower GHG emitting protein source.

A switch to river-fish and in-city ponds where fish are grown for local consumption offers a viable alternative to global sourcing.

Industry remains reliant on imports from across the world where processing costs, while currently low, are seeing double-digit growth.

Disruptors in this space:

  • Algae Protein
  • Seaweed Protein
  • City Centre Aquaculture

Primary Processing 

Representing the 'first' processing step either in-field or in-packhouse these spaces are often the highest employment areas on farms.

Many operations are manual and often require a level of dexterity and are not easily automated.

Often busy spaces, the impact of automation while appreciated is difficult to estimate and thus remains un-adopted.

Significant opportunity in handling livestock especially in butchery which remains reliant on skilled migrant labour.

Disruptive technology:

  • Traditional Robotic Automation
  • Collaborative or Co-existing Robotics
  • AI Enabled Systems 



Secondary Processing


'Traditional' image of food factories whose layouts and operations have largely remained unchanged.

Remains heavily reliant on manual dexterity and hence manual labour.

Severely impacted by Brexit, Migrant Labour Cap and the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Significant opportunity for disruptive automation that 'looks' and 'works' like current operators. 

Disruptive technology:

  • Collaborative or Co-existing Robotics
  • Simple Vision Systems
  • Factory Layout and Optimisation Solutions
  • Virtual Factory Presence of Experts and Auditors


Intra-logistic (factory or warehouse) optimisation remains an untapped opportunity for most manufacturing operations.

Adoption of AGV or AiV technology remains steadfastly low and is often not even offered to Food and Drink manufacturers.

Extra-logistics (between factories, suppliers, warehouses and customers) is a developing area for hybrid or electric vehicles directly affecting CO2 footprint.

Disruptive technology

  • Autonomous Intra-Logistic Solutions
  • Electrification of Extra and Intra-Logistic Fleet
  • Rapid expansion of e-fulfilment locations
  • Collaborative and Moveable Automation
  • End-to-End Digital Technologies



Consumer trends are changing with 2020 accelerating the online shopping channel and new direct to consumer models and businesses.

eCOM channels expanded hugely in 2020 and businesses were racing to keep up with the demand highlighting many different shortfalls of this channel.

Stores are hybridising their approach with the expansion of store / hubs to handle local online shopping demand

Smaller production runs and more agile shopping habits has reduced volumes creating new challenges for volume manufacturers

Disruptive technology:

  • New Direct to Consumer Models
  • New Packaging to Handle Home Delivery
    (Supermarket and In Home Restaurant Experience)
  • Smaller Electrified Fleet


Household food waste remains high at 4.5m tonnes valued at £14bn

Expansion in online shopping and in-home eating has led to explosion in packaging that may reverse the trend leading up to 2020

Food manufacturers will be taxed on single use plastic from 2022 and will responsible for EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility)

Waste through the supply chain remains a challenge with the industry seeking to make ageing equipment and processes more efficient

Disruptive technology

  • New packaging approaches and materials
  • Novel recycling models and equipment
  • Energy and protein production from food waste
  • Advanced recycling technologies


Post Brexit economy has created a huge demand for paperwork.

Brexit presents a unique opportunity to design and develop digital tools to enable smooth and compliant exports and imports.

Brexit vote has discouraged foreign nationals to come to work in the UK putting the Food and Drink supply chain under extreme pressure.

migrant labour cap

UK primary production is heavily reliant on manual labour

Available labour pool has been reducing year-on-year driving the need to seek alternatives.

Robotic solutions currently lack dexterity and speed of human operators.

Industry at risk of sleepwalking into a bonded-labour market if alternatives aren’t found.


Focussed UK on sourcing locally and highlighted significant shortcomings in domestic supply and SKU complexity.

Farmers faced with dilemma of growing food or becoming CO2 sinks to enable Net Zero for UK economy.

Has accelerated direct to consumer (D2C) opportunities for the sector.

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