Shares of £5 million in funding will soon be available to small and medium-sized farming businesses looking to increase sustainable food production, achieve net-zero, improve resilience and support nature recovery.
The Farming Innovation Investor Partnership Competition aims to accelerate agricultural research and development by combining grant funding with private investments. The grants are looking to specifically support projects within the industry that have demonstrated the potential to grow and generate revenue, supporting the commercialisation of on-farm technologies that can then be rolled out industry-wide.
It represents an extension of the £270m Farming Innovation Programme which has already committed over £100m to support earlier stage R&D projects working on cutting-edge agricultural technologies. Examples of these projects include autonomous livestock monitoring systems, robotic fruit harvesting systems, concentrated light weeding using AI, intelligent robotic cow cubicles and digital crop management for the early detection of glasshouse pests and diseases.
Projects are encouraged to apply from across the livestock, arable, horticulture, bioeconomy and agroforestry sectors and should focus on solutions that support productivity, environmental sustainability, progression towards net zero emissions and farming resilience. Projects 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. There is no limit to the level of private investment for projects, and previous schemes have shown the ability to attract significantly higher levels of investment.
Mark Spencer, farming minister, said: “Supporting a resilient, sustainable and innovative agriculture sector that puts food on our tables while safeguarding the environment is my priority, and we are working with farmers to deliver this through our new farming schemes and grants.
“By bringing together cutting-edge agri-innovation and public and private investment, we can unlock new technologies that help make our farm businesses as productive as possible.”
This announcement follows the first ever ‘Nature Finance’ event held at 10 Downing Street in June which brought together farmers, land managers, investors and conservation experts to help farmers identify new investment opportunities and address barriers to mobilise private investment for nature’s recovery.
The competition, which is funded by Defra, run in partnership with UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and delivered by Innovate UK, opens for applications on Monday July 24, 2023. By supporting projects at the later-stage of innovation, the competition is expected to drive increased commercialisation and adoption within the industry, and also aims to elevate the profile of the agri-tech sector by positioning it as a central focus for UK investors.
In order to apply, projects must be led by a sole UK registered micro, small, or medium-sized business and exhibit clear and tangible connections to farmers, growers, agri-businesses, and other potential end-users. Investors for the programme will be selected from the pool of Innovate UK Investor Partners which currently comprises 80 partners and growing.