Defra has announced a new long-term funding programme to support farmers, growers, foresters and other businesses to embrace innovative new ways to maximise productivity and drive sustainability.
The Farming Innovation Programme opened for applications on the 20th of October and is one of the new measures set out in the government’s Agricultural Transition Plan. It will support ambitious projects to transform productivity and enhance environmental sustainability in the agricultural and horticultural sectors, whilst also driving sectors towards net-zero.
In partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Defra will make £17.5 million available for the first round of the three funds which make up the Programme. The first is the Industry-Led R&D Partnerships Fund, where farmers, growers, foresters and businesses can bid for funding to develop new technologies and practices that will help them overcome challenges and exploit new opportunities.
Early next year, Defra will launch the Farming Futures R&D Fund for strategic projects aimed at tackling climate change by reducing the environmental impact of farming. Later in the year, the Projects to Accelerate Adoption Fund will be launched to support farmer-led projects to trail the viability of new innovations.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Jo Churchill, said: “Innovation is vital to address the challenges facing the agricultural and horticultural sectors. New ideas, technologies and processes will play a key role in helping farmers, growers and businesses to become more productive.
“The Farming Innovation Programme will enable the sector to be more environmentally sustainable and resilient, whilst helping it achieve its net-zero ambitions. I encourage all eligible businesses and individuals to apply.”
The scheme will expand on Defra’s partnership with UKRI for the recent Farming Innovation Pathways competition, which saw high demand from the sector and attracted many high quality applications to innovate the horticulture and farming industry.
Defra has now announced the projects that have won a share of this £14.5 million Farming Innovation Pathways funding. The awarded projects will contribute to helping businesses and researchers transform food production, meet the demand for British food and help the sector to move towards net-zero.
- A fruit-scouting robot that monitors the growth-stages of crops, up to determining fruit ripeness, size and optimal picking time, to allow farmers to maximise production and yields.
- A model to use soldier flies to create a low-cost, protein-rich animal feed from farm waste, enabling farmers to recover value from otherwise unusable waste. This also promotes circular farming practices in which resources are turned into new products at the end of their life.
- A new approach to protect vegetable seeds against parasites and pathogens without the use of pesticides. This would help farmers improve vegetables germination, growth and yield through a combination of techniques such as laser treatment and natural disinfectants.
- A fruit and vegetable growing method which harnesses natural daylight to boost the nutritional and flavour characteristics of crops. This would enhance the sustainability, productivity and competitiveness of domestic fruit and vegetable growing, compared to conventional glasshouse production. It will also extend the production season and remove the need for pesticides in production.
UKRI challenge director for the TFP challenge, Katrina Hayter, said: “As the UK gets ready to host COP26 in November, it is timely that we can unveil so many great projects in the vital area of agriculture that will help meet our net-zero goals.
“Working closely with farmers in the innovation process means that pressing challenges are identified. Solving these challenges will result in maximising productivity, reducing emissions, and making our farms more resilient and sustainable.”