Small and medium-sized farming businesses in the United Kingdom will soon be able to apply for a share of £5 million in grant funding. This funding aims to promote innovation in the agriculture sector, increase sustainable food production, facilitate progress towards net-zero emissions, enhance farm resilience, and support nature recovery.
The Farming Innovation Investor Partnership Competition, opening later this month, will play a crucial role in accelerating research and development in agriculture. By combining grant funding with private investment, this competition seeks to support pioneering projects across the agricultural sector that have demonstrated potential for growth and revenue generation. The ultimate goal is to promote the commercialization of on-farm technologies that can be adopted throughout the industry.
This initiative is an extension of the £270 million Farming Innovation Program, which has already allocated over £100 million to support early-stage research and development projects focused on cutting-edge agricultural technologies. Notable examples of these projects include autonomous livestock monitoring systems, robotic fruit harvesting systems, AI-driven concentrated light weeding, intelligent robotic cow cubicles, and digital crop management for early detection of glasshouse pests and diseases.
Projects from various sectors, including livestock, arable, horticulture, bioeconomy, and agroforestry, are encouraged to apply. The emphasis is on solutions that enhance productivity, promote environmental sustainability, advance progress toward achieving net-zero emissions, and improve farming resilience. Project applicants can bid for up to 45% of project costs in grant funding, which must be matched by at least twice the amount in private investment. The level of private investment is not limited, and previous schemes have demonstrated the ability to attract significantly higher levels of investment.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer expressed his support for the initiative, stating that developing a resilient, sustainable, and innovative agriculture sector that ensures food security while protecting the environment is a top priority. Through collaborations between cutting-edge agri-innovation and public and private investment, the aim is to unlock new technologies that maximize the productivity of farm businesses.
This effort aligns with the Prime Minister’s agenda to grow the economy and follows the first-ever ‘Nature Finance’ event, which took place at 10 Downing Street in June. The event brought together farmers, land managers, investors, and conservation experts to identify new investment opportunities and address barriers to mobilizing private investment for nature’s recovery.
The competition is funded by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) in partnership with UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and is delivered by Innovate UK. Applications for the competition will open on Monday, July 24. By supporting projects in the later stages of innovation, the competition is expected to drive increased commercialization and adoption within the industry. Additionally, it aims to raise the profile of the agri-tech sector by positioning it as a central focus for UK investors.
To be eligible for the funding, projects must be led by a sole UK-registered micro, small, or medium-sized business and demonstrate clear and tangible connections to farmers, growers, agri-businesses, and other potential end-users. Investors for the program will be selected from Innovate UK’s pool of Investor Partners, which currently consists of 80 partners and continues to grow.
This grant funding opportunity presents a significant opportunity for small and medium-sized farming businesses to access financial support and drive innovation in the agriculture sector. By embracing cutting-edge technologies and sustainable practices, these businesses can play a vital role in ensuring a resilient and environmentally responsible food supply chain for the United Kingdom.