A government pledge to encourage the adoption of new farming technology by growers and livestock producers has been welcomed by industry leaders.
The Farming Investment Fund will open later this year. It follows the end of the Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme, which part-funded purchases of farm equipment. That scheme closed in January.
Defra said the investment fund would continue to ensure support remained available for adoption of innovation and productivity improvements. In this respect, the fund has similar objectives to the scheme it replaces.
“The fund will provide targeted support to businesses so that they can invest in equipment, technology, and infrastructure that will improve their productivity and deliver environmental and other public benefits,” said Defra.
There will be two levels of the Farming Investment Fund:
- Farming Equipment and Technology Fund – which will offer small grants to contribute towards the purchase of a list of specified items
- Farming Transformation Fund – which will provide larger grants towards the cost of more substantial investments in equipment, technology or infrastructure, with the potential to transform business performance.
Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE, said: “The proposed new Farming Investment Fund will – we hope – help de-risk the investment in new technologies which we see is often a barrier to uptake by farmers.”
Ease of access to the fund would be key to its success, said Dr Clarke. She added: “We hope the outcomes will be assessed by meaningful metrics which are relevant to farmers, as well as relatively simple to capture.”
Types of eligible investments could include on-farm water storage infrastructure; robotic or automated technology to improve animal health and welfare; and equipment for the processing of agricultural products.
Funding will be in addition to increased investment in farmer-led research and development projects to trial and demonstrate the viability of new and existing technologies.
These technologies will be selected to address immediate on-farm productivity challenges. They will also seek to address ways that agriculture can meet targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net zero.
Example projects could include the trialling new feed additives or demonstrating the integration of autonomous farm machinery.