Exhibitors at the Midlands Machinery Show say the event is well-timed for farmers looking to make the most of government grants.
A number of machinery, technology and productivity grants are expected to re-open this winter – including grants for farm equipment, says Tom Cheer, agricultural business consultant at Brown & Co.
The main grant relevant to the show is the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF) for productivity and slurry – which is very similar to the old Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme, says Mr Cheer.
“It aims to improve productivity and efficiency on farm. Applications are online, selecting items from an eligible list and getting paid a fixed amount of grant no matter how much is spent on the item.”
So far, there have been two rounds of the FETF. A third round is expected to open to applications this winter. Previous rounds have seen grants available for items such as direct drills and weeders – with further items expected to be added in future.
Camera guided equipment, liquid fertiliser applicators and small seed drills will all be exhibited at the show. Displays will include machines from KRM, Grange Machinery, Sands Agricultural Machinery, Househam sprayers and Knight sprayers.
“For a 6m direct drill in round two, the amount of grant awarded was £18,720; if it was capable of applying fertiliser simultaneously, it was £25,000,” says Mr Cheer.
“For N-Sensors it was £6,675 and for camera-guided inter-row vegetable weeders, a 6m machine attracted £22,745.”
The list of eligible items varies from round to round but is usually expanded over time, with some items occasionally removed, says Mr Cheer.
“The maximum grant is £25,000 but farmers can choose as many items as they like to meet this amount. It is worth bearing in mind that for each item, a minimum specification must be met, which the Rural Payments Agency is incredibly strict about.”
The grant helps farmers to access more technical machinery at a lower cost, says KRM managing director Mike Britton.
“KRM machinery’s tine drill SMP model will be on show at the Midlands Machinery Show and has so far been eligible for the FETF grant. It promotes regenerative farming, moving the soil less, leading to less release of carbon.
“The grant has also covered KRM Calibrators – control systems for fertiliser spreading and variable rate application and KRM Patchwork GPS section control.
“Both are driving efficiency, meaning farmers use less fertiliser on the field, and less fertiliser is wasted through run-off, with environmental benefits.”
There is also the Animal Health and Welfare aspect of FETF and larger productivity grants under the Farming Transformation Fund. They cover water management, reservoirs and irrigation equipment; slurry infrastructure; adding value and improving productivity.
Mr Cheer, says: “Improving Farm Productivity is about bringing robotics on farm like robotic harvesters, sprayers and weeders, aimed at the vegetable industry.
But it’s also autonomous tractors and robotic milking and feeding systems – anything with a camera to sense its surroundings and decision-making capabilities.”
There are also opportunities for grants to add value to farm produce – aimed at packhouse equipment like optical graders. The Farming Transformation Fund grants is a two-stage process with an ‘expression of interest’ or ‘online checker’, followed up by a full application.
Currently closed to new applications, the Farming Transformation Fund is expected to re-open this winter. Previously grants have accounts for 40% of the equipment cost from £35,000 to £500,000 with 60% match funding from the farmer.
“We are looking forward to meeting farmers at our stand at the Midlands Machinery Show to discuss the grant opportunities available,” says Mr Cheer.