The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today (Monday, August 22) announced £16.5 million in funding for the latest round of the Farming Innovation Programme.

The Farming Innovation Programme is part of Defra’s investment in innovation, research and development. It funds projects that benefit farmers, growers and foresters.

Some of the projects to receive funding from the programme include artificial intelligence technology to optimise welfare in pigs, agri-robots to help speed up vegetable harvests and automation to increase fruit crop yields.

Commenting on the programme, Farming Innovation Minister Steve Double said:

“We want to help unlock greater potential in our already brilliant farming and horticulture sector.

“Today’s first round of projects demonstrate how – with the right funding and support – there are great productivity and environmental sustainability gains to be made. 

“Our £270 million investment in farming innovation is designed to help take the UK’s world-leading research ideas and turn them into practical solutions to support healthy soils, abundant pollinators and clean water alongside profitable food production.” 

The programmer is run in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) , building upon its Transforming Food Production challenge, which aims to help the agricultural sector grow economically with less environmental impact.

Katrina Hayter, challenge director for the Transforming Food Production challenge, said:

“You only need look at the sheer breadth of projects that have received funding to see there are so many opportunities for innovation across the food sector.

“From animal health to crop productivity, the introduction of strategic support technology and the precise application of chemicals, it’s exciting to see so many concepts beginning to come to life.

“When brought together, it shows how the whole food system can benefit from new ideas, with knowledge-sharing and collaboration at its core. We are keen to ensure farmers and growers remain at the heart of projects, bringing their valuable real-life experiences to the project consortia to ensure that each innovation stays focused on helping improve the day-to-day challenges faced by those in the food sector.

“We now look forward to supporting these projects further as they develop.”