Over £14 million is to be made available for innovative farming solutions under two new research and feasibility competitions under the Farming Innovation Programme.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced the funding today (Wednesday, August 2) as part of its commitment to invest £600 million in innovation and productivity in the agricultural sector over three years.

The competitions are open to farmers, growers, foresters, research organisations and businesses involved in agriculture to collaborate on novel ideas and innovative farming solutions.

The department said previous rounds of funding have led to investment in the use of ultraviolet as a disinfectant in the dairy and poultry sectors.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “These competitions are all about encouraging collaborations between farmers and growers on the one hand, and research organisations and industry on the other, to help bring ideas from the planning stage into practice.   

“The success of the previous competition rounds and the broad scope of ideas coming forward showcase the range of possibilities available for driving up productivity and solving some of the industry’s biggest challenges.

“I encourage everyone to take a look at what’s on offer in the latest competitions and apply.” 

Small R&D Partnerships

Defra has also published guidance for the third round of the Small Research & Development (R&D) Partnerships competition, which seeks to help businesses develop a new farming product or service and take it to commercialisation on the open market.

The competition, developed in partnership with the Transforming Food Production Challenge and delivered by Innovate UK, is worth almost £10 million.

The second round of the competition has provided funding for projects including exploring how to breed sheep with a naturally low carbon footprint to help sheep farmers contribute to the journey towards net zero.

The guidance is available on the UK government’s website and farmers, growers, foresters. research organisations and businesses are encouraged to read it ahead of applications opening.

Applications for the third round of the Small R&D Partnerships competition open on August 14.

Executive director for the healthy living and agriculture domain at Innovate UK, Dr Katrina Hayter, said: “We look forward to supporting the next round of applicants and identifying promising partnerships that hold the potential to address the sustainability, efficiency, and net zero challenges confronting the UK’s agrifood industry.  

“By fostering collaborations between farmers, growers, agri-businesses and researchers, these partnerships become the driving force behind transforming innovative solutions into practical applications.”

Feasibility Studies

The Small R&D Partnerships guidance and funding comes alongside new guidance for a £4.5 milion Feasibility Studies competition, which aims to support businesses and researchers through project testing and development.

It looks for early-stage solutions that have the potential to substantially improve the overall productivity, sustainability and resilience of farming, and move existing agricultural sectors to net zero, Defra said.

Applications for the Feasibility Studies competition window are open from September 1,8 of this year.

Successful applicants in previous funding rounds include a study to identify fungal strains that can help fight against insect and fungal pests in wheat crops with the aim of reducing the costs associated with multiple applications of chemical pesticides, mechanical damage from repeated spray applications and crop yield losses.

“Feasibility studies mark the initial stage in researching an idea that could improve farming, while Small R&D Partnerships are a vital step to empowering businesses to forge novel farming products and services, paving the way towards successful commercialisation,” Dr Hayter said.