A £12m funding competition to develop new farm-focused technology has been launched by Defra and the UK Research and Innovation agency.
The Farming Innovation Pathways competition aims to make sure leading agricultural research directly benefits farmers – and helps to address the challenges of productivity, sustainability, and quest for net zero emissions in UK agriculture.
Defra says the competition will pave the way for R&D to boost innovation in the agricultural sector. It will build on advancements in areas such as insect farming, sustainable livestock feed, agricultural robotics and autonomous growing systems.
Successful entries will be ideas that address challenges across the agri-food sector, says Defra. These include vision-guided robotic weeding systems and novel food production systems, such as vertical farming.
Defra farm minister Victoria Prentis said: “We want to see farmers manage their businesses in a way that delivers profitable food production and the recovery of nature, using the best modern technology available today.
“Promising innovations such as robotics and automation, and novel food production systems have the potential to transform business performance for our farmers and help them address some of the industry’s greatest challenges.”
Funded through Defra’s Future Farming & Countryside Programme, the competition will bring together farmers, growers and businesses, enabling them to develop novel technological solutions.
Some £5m will be spent on evaluating the potential of early-stage ideas or innovations. This could then lead to further R&D to develop ideas into technically and commercially feasible projects and innovations.
The remaining £7m will be invested in industrial research – developing ideas with high-potential that target challenges affecting farmers, growers and other agribusinesses, or further developing existing solutions.
UKRI challenge director Katrina Hayter said: “Working alongside Defra for this competition will ensure a coordinated approach to support innovation to help drive future green growth and develop a world-leading sustainable agricultural sector.”