The UK Government has announced a further £16.5 million to drive innovation in agriculture.
Part of the £270M Farming Innovation Programme, the money will be used to fund a suite of new projects. The Farming Innovation Programme is a joint endeavour from Defra and UKRI, and builds on the latter’s Transforming Food Production Challenge.
Funding will be divided among the successful applicants of two competitions: the £5.5M Feasibility Projects competition, and the £11M Small R&D Partnership Project competition.
Winners of the former, which is dedicated to funding projects through the “difficult testing phase”, will be awarded grants worth between £200,000 and £500,000. Winners of the latter will receive a share of the money worth between £1M and £3M to further work on solutions which address major on-farm or immediate post-farmgate challenges.
The ultimate aim of the two competitions is to “spark new ideas and collaboration across the sector”, and funding and support is available to farmers, growers, foresters, businesses, and researchers.
A callout for applications for the Farming Innovation Programme was initially put out in October 2021. The Government has now unveiled the recipients of this first round of funding.
Among the projects receiving financial support are Farmsense’s use of sensor technology and AI to optimise welfare in pigs; Blue Planet II, a new project which uses autonomous technology to further increase fruit crop yield and quality; and a robot concept from Muddy Machines to speed up vegetable harvesting.
On the unveiling of the first round of projects, Farming Innovation Minister Steve Double said: “Today’s first round of projects demonstrate how – with the right funding and support – there are great productivity and environmental sustainability gains to be made.”
Katrina Hayter, Challenge Director for the Transforming Food Production challenge, added: “You only need look at the sheer breadth of projects that have received funding to see there are so many opportunities for innovation across the food sector.
“From animal health to crop productivity, the introduction of strategic support technology and the precise application of chemicals, it’s exciting to see so many concepts beginning to come to life.”
Altogether, Defra expects to spend around £600M on grants and other support for farmers in the next three years.
Both the Feasibility Projects competition and the Small R&D Partnership Project competition open for applications on 31 August. Visit the Innovation Funding Service Website for more information.
As Defra and UKRI seek to forge knowledge-sharing pathways, find out why they’re not the only ones that believe collaboration is part of the future of food in this Food Matters Live Podcast episode: