Competition addresses challenges in agri-food sector

12 February 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘It is vital that we work with innovators and farmers to ensure good ideas and new technologies have clear routes to adoption.’

UKRI and the UK Government’s Department for the Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), have announced funding for a Farming Innovation Pathways research and development competition, which will be open to ideas addressing challenges across the agri-food sector. Priorities will include robotics and automation, and novel food production systems such as vertical farming.

The competition will be delivered by UKRI’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Transforming Food Production, aimed at developing new and existing farm-focused innovations. Funding, which will come from Defra’s Future Farming & Countryside Programme, will see £5 million made available for feasibility projects, while £7 million will be available for industrial research. The projects will bring together farmers, growers and business enabling them to develop novel technological solutions.

UKRI said that Farming Innovation Pathways will ensure practical translation of leading research in agriculture, which can directly benefit farmers and support them as they address the challenges of productivity, sustainability and net-zero emissions in UK farming.

The first competition of its kind since the UK left the EU, it is said that Farming Innovation Pathways will build on the ground-breaking ideas already funded by the Transforming Food Production programme, which as seen advancement in areas such as insect farming, sustainable livestock feed, agricultural robotics and autonomous growing systems.

Commenting, Katrina Hayter, challenge director for UKRI’s Transforming Food Production challenge said; ‘It is vital that we work with innovators and farmers to ensure good ideas and new technologies have clear routes to adoption, effective business benefits for users and the ability to improve longer-term productivity and sustainability of the sector.’

Applications for the Farming Innovation Pathways feasibility studies or industrial research will open from the 1 March 2021. A briefing event is scheduled for 11 March 2021.

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