Farm Funding: Funding to help farming businesses innovate
Now more than ever it is imperative that farms innovate and invest, particularly with the loss of BPS. To aid in this there are a number of farm funding schemes currently on offer.
Innovation will play a critical role in addressing the challenges facing agriculture and horticulture in the coming years, from achieving net-zero through to increasing productivity, writes Andy Cureton, head of research and partnerships of UK Research and Innovation.
Earlier this year, Defra launched the new Farming Innovation Programme with the opening of three new research and development competitions in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Building on the UK’s strong track record in agri-innovation, we need to develop the new innovative technologies, processes and practices that will play a key role in helping farmers, growers and foresters become more productive whilst also improving the environment.
There is no silver bullet technology that will meet all these challenges – it will take a combination of innovations to overcome them. For example, sensing technologies combined with artificial intelligence will help us to target inputs where they are really needed, reducing both costs and risks to the environment.
Practices that lock up carbon could provide new business models by encouraging the drawing-down of carbon from other industries. Robotics and automation can help address labour shortages, and new genomic technologies could improve the resilience of crops and livestock to pests and diseases, helping to address welfare issues. These are just a few of the opportunities that innovation could provide.
If any of these new solutions are going to have a positive impact, they must be more widely adopted. So how to better encourage uptake?
The Farming Innovation Programme builds on previous R&D initiatives – including the UKRI Transforming Food Production Challenge, which has invested £90 million in transformative solutions to help the agriculture sector reach Net-Zero targets.
With the new Farming Innovation Programme, we want to encourage farmers, growers and foresters to collaborate with other businesses and researchers to accelerate the uptake of these new solutions by those that need them most.
The Farming Innovation Programme will support ambitious projects that will transform productivity and enhance environmental sustainability through three different funds, namely the ‘Industry-led R&D Partnerships Fund’ and the ‘Farming Futures R&D Fund’, both of which will be delivered by Innovate UK – the innovation arm of UKRI, and finally the ‘Projects to Accelerate Adoption Fund’.
What farm funding options are out there?
The Industry-led R&D Partnerships Fund will bring together agri-food businesses to develop solutions that will address major on farm challenges to productivity and environmental sustainability. Support for different types of projects is available, from the development of bold early-stage projects based on farmers’ ideas, through to later stage pre-commercial research and development. We recently launched a series of competitions in this fund, and in the Spring, there will be opportunities for Large R&D Partnership projects, which can last up to four years and cost between £3m – £5m.
The Farming Futures R&D Fund is aimed at encouraging agri-food businesses and researchers to focus on transformative solutions and address strategic and sector-wide challenges that impact productivity in the long-term. The first competition in this fund is due to open in early 2022 for transformative projects to provide solutions that reduce emissions in existing agricultural and horticultural practices. Projects can last up to four years and cost between £3m – £6m.
Finally, the Projects to Accelerate Adoption Fund will focus on immediate, on-farm productivity challenges. This might be through smaller-scale, farmer and grower-led projects to trial the on-farm viability of technologies, processes and practices. This fund is at an earlier stage of co-development and more information will be made available next year.
Whether you are a farmer, grower, or forester in England with an exciting idea that you’re looking to develop into a project; an established partnership of UK businesses looking to take the next step towards commercialising your innovative product; or a business from outside the sector with an idea that could prove to be a game-changer for farming in England, there are opportunities for you within the Farming Innovation Programme.