Agriculture AgTech Investments

UK Farming: £14 Million Innovation Boost Announced by DEFRA

UK Farming: £14 Million Innovation Boost Announced by DEFRA. Agriculture; Agtech News; Agriculture Technology News; FoodTech; Crop News

In a significant move to bolster the UK’s agricultural sector, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced the allocation of over £14 million for two new research and feasibility competitions under the Farming Innovation Programme

This funding is a part of the UK government’s broader strategy to invest a whopping £600 million in the farming sector over the next three years. The primary aim is to enhance productivity, promote sustainable practices, and achieve net-zero targets.

These competitions are designed to foster collaboration between various stakeholders in the agricultural sector, including farmers, growers, foresters, research institutions, and agri-businesses. The goal is to brainstorm and implement innovative solutions that can address the myriad challenges faced by the industry.

Past competitions have yielded impressive results, such as the development of automation technologies to enhance soft fruit yields, the creation of battery-operated robots for asparagus harvesting, and the innovative use of ultraviolet light as a disinfectant in dairy and poultry sectors.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative: “These competitions are pivotal in bridging the gap between creativity and implementation. The overwhelming success of previous rounds and diverse ideas underscore the vast potential for elevating productivity and addressing the sector’s most pressing issues.”

Defra has also released guidelines for the third round of the Small R&D Partnerships competition. This competition, worth nearly £10 million, is geared towards aiding businesses in developing and commercializing new farming products or services. It is a collaborative effort between the Transforming Food Production Challenge and Innovate UK.

The second round of this competition has already funded several groundbreaking projects, such as research into breeding low-carbon footprint sheep and integrating electricity generation with berry cultivation.

Additionally, Defra has introduced guidelines for the £4.5 million Feasibility Studies competition. This initiative aims to support the preliminary testing phase of innovative ideas, ensuring their viability and practicality.

Applications for the Small R&D Partnerships competition are set to open on 14 August, while the Feasibility Studies competition will commence on 18 September.

Dr. Katrina Hayter, Executive Director for the Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, commented on the initiative, “These partnerships are instrumental in translating innovative solutions into tangible applications. By fostering collaborations, we aim to address the sustainability, efficiency, and net-zero challenges plaguing the UK’s agri-food industry.”

Since its inception in October 2021, the Farming Innovation Programme has launched 16 competitions, with over £123 million in funding announced for industry-led research and development in agriculture and horticulture as of August 2023.

The recent Farm to Fork Summit underscored the critical role of innovation in the food and farming sectors. The government unveiled a comprehensive support package for farmers, emphasizing adopting cutting-edge technologies and methodologies.

Among the initiatives is the On-Farm Environmental Resilience competition, which dedicates up to £12.5 million to projects focused on developing innovative farming techniques and technologies. The results of this competition are eagerly awaited and will be announced this autumn.

Photo by David George on Unsplash 

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