Defra has revealed the details of new government-funded research projects into the development of on-farm innovation, with a further £16.5M worth of grants to follow.

Agri-robots to speed up vegetable harvests and automation to increase fruit crop yields are among some of research and development projects to receive funding through the government’s £270M Farming Innovation Programme.

New ideas

According to Defra, the Farming Innovation Programme aims to spark new ideas and collaboration across the sector to address long-term challenges such as producing nutritious food more efficiently while helping the sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve net zero goals.

Therefore, farmers, growers, foresters, businesses and researchers are now being invited to collaborate and submit applications for two new competitions which are due to open for applications shortly.

Further funding

A £5.5M competition for ‘Feasibility Projects’ will offer grants for projects worth between £200,000 and £500,000 to support research and development through the difficult testing phase of an idea to see if it’s worth investing in further.

Winners of the Small R&D Partnership Project competition will receive a share of the £11M grant funding for industrial research projects worth between £1-£3M to further develop new solutions that will ultimately address major on-farm or immediate post farmgate challenges or opportunities such as enhancing productivity and sustainability.

‘Unlocking potential’

“We want to help unlock greater potential in our already brilliant farming and horticulture sector. Today’s (22 August 2022) first round of projects demonstrate how – with the right funding and support – there are great productivity and environmental sustainability gains to be made,” said farming innovation minister, Steve Double.

“Our £270M 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.”

Altogether Defra says it expects to spend around £600M on grants and other support for farmers to invest in productivity, animal health and welfare, innovation, research and development over the next three years.