A new £12 million research and innovation fund has been launched across the UK aiming to boost investment in the agricultural sector.

The new ‘Farming Innovation Pathways’ competition will be backed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

It’s part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Transforming Food Production programme.

The fund will support collaborative projects that focus on:

  • Developing innovative farm-focused technologies, systems or approaches to help improve food productivity;
  • Increasing resilience and sustainability in line with net-zero ambitions;
  • Bringing together farmers, growers and businesses, enabling them to develop novel technological solutions.

What will the money go towards?

The competition is open to all ideas addressing challenges across the agri-food sector.

Priorities include robotics and automation, which could include things like vision-guided robotic weeding systems, and novel food production systems, including vertical farming.

The funding is split into two categories:

Feasibility studies (£5 million)

To evaluate the potential of early-stage ideas or innovations that tackle on-farm challenges, that could lead to further R&D to develop ideas into technically and commercially feasible solutions.

Industrial research (£7 million)

To develop novel high-potential solutions targeting real issues affecting farmers, growers and other agribusinesses, or further develop existing solutions.

This will deliver transformative solutions that tackle problems farmers are currently facing. It will include working with stakeholders to assess how solutions will be integrated within production systems to achieve widespread adoption.

Applications for both parts open on March 1.

Briefing event

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is organising a briefing and consortia-building event on March 11, 2021, which will include presentations from UKRI and Defra on the competition scope and eligibility criteria.

There will also be an opportunity to identify potential collaboration partners and to put forward issues that farmers, growers and end-users may be facing across priority areas including:

  • Livestock (beef, dairy, sheep, pigs, poultry);
  • Plant (arable, horticulture, vegetable production);
  • Novel food production systems;
  • Bioeconomy and agroforestry;
  • Integrated plant or livestock systems.