Speaking at a conference on innovation at the Kent research station on 16 April attended by Princess Anne to mark its 100th anniversary, he said: "The growers who established EMR a century ago knew that research was a key investment.
"Nowadays, sustainable businesses invest a minimum of five per cent in research. The figure is even bigger in hi-tech sectors, which horticulture can be counted among. The best growers will seek out knowledge and exploit niches as early adopters."
Gregory, who is also professor of global food security at the University of Reading, said this is imperative. "Food security has never been so high on the agenda," he added.
"In the next 35 years, the world will have to produce 70 per cent more food than it does today. The opportunities to increase production are immense. But we need more water management and more labour-saving technology."
Berry Gardens research director Richard Harnden told the conference: "We need a strong research base to meet food security demands. The Horticultural Development Company (HDC) has its detractors, but I implore you to read its stuff."
Kent soft-fruit grower and HDC board member Marion Regan, chairing the event, said: "A lot (of research) can be funded by growers themselves through the HDC, but we are hugely reliant on other sources, not least from the Government."
Naming protocol Raising awareness
All named varieties bred at East Malling Research over the past quarter-century - from strawberries to hops, rootstocks and ornamentals - will now be prefixed with the word "Malling", Professor Peter Gregory announced at the innovation conference.
"We have not made enough of the Malling name," he said. "This will raise awareness of where these fruit come from."
Among the varieties bearing the new naming format will be the Malling Centenary strawberry, which will be in supermarkets this summer.