Home Sustainability and Eco Friendly initiative news Government ringfences £14m for sustainable farming innovation

Government ringfences £14m for sustainable farming innovation

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Government ringfences £14m for sustainable farming innovation


More than £14m is to be ploughed into pioneering sustainable agriculture projects through two new research and feasibility competitions delivered under the government’s Farming Innovation Programme, Defra has announced.

The latest funding awards include almost £10m via a third round of the Small R&D Partnerships competition, developed in tandem with the Transforming Food Production Challenge and delivered by Innovate UK, as well as a new £4.5m Feasibility Studies competition.

Part of the government’s commitment to invest £600m over three years in agricultural innovation, it is hoped the latest funding will encourage farmers, growers, researchers, and argi-business firms to collaborate on novel ideas to address sustainability, efficiency, and net zero challenges.

Previous competitions have supported schemes to harness automation to improve soft fruit harvests, roll out asparagus-harvesting robots, and use ultraviolet as a disinfectant in the dairy and poultry sectors.

More recent funding has explored how to breed sheep with a naturally low carbon footprint and enabled a project to harness renewable electricity generation to power operational processes such as automated picking, sensor, and vehicle technologies.

Applications for the Small R&D Partnerships competition will be accepted from 14 August while the Feasibility Studies competition window opens on 18 September, the government said.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said encouraging collaboration between farmers and growers alongside research and industry partnerships would help move innovative ideas from the planning stage and 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,” he said.

Since opening in October 2021, 16 competitions have launched under the government’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme, with more than more than £123m in funding for research and development in agriculture and horticulture pledged as of August 2023.

“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,” said Dr Katrina Hayter, executive director for the Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK.

“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.”

In related news, climate tech investment marketplace HeavyFinance has announced it has passed a €40m milestone for agricultural loans provided across Europe. 

The overall sum has been distributed across almost 1,400 different projects, with the bulk of projects located in eastern Europe. The achievement marks a major step towards the company’s aim of generating 250,000 carbon credits from 100,000 hectares of agricultural land by the end of 2024.

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