UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has today announced the winners of a combined £8 million in funding, as part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme.
The feasibility projects competition was created to back new and innovative solutions, aid research and collaboration, and encourage collaboration across the UK’s farmers, growers and foresters.
The competition, managed by UKRI’s transforming food production challenge and delivered by Innovate UK, ran from October to December 2021.
It sought applications of up to £500,000 to support the investigation of early-stage solutions that have the potential to improve sustainability, productivity and resilience of UK farming on a path to net zero.
Projects were required to demonstrate the benefits the concept would generate, as well as how collaboration between farmers, businesses and researchers could be enhanced as a result.
Over 20 projects were successful in their applications, for a range of ideas across:
- animal farming
- pest and disease detection
- novel technology concepts.
Successful technology-led projects included Lettus Grow’s advanced aeroponic systems and Muddy Machines’ field-tested harvesting robots, while Yagro aim to utilise drone surveys to provide greater commercial data and intelligence to farmers.
Eyre Trailers, Earth Rover and Performance Projects all developed new concepts for harvesting, from combine harvester vehicles themselves, to broccoli and soft fruit.
Improving sustainability in farming
Katrina Hayter, challenge director for the transforming food production challenge, said: "The breadth of areas covered by the successful projects clearly demonstrate just how many issues there are to tackle when it comes to innovating the UK’s food sector. What these projects have shown is not simply a standalone solution, but a concept that forms part of a wider picture of improving the overall sustainability and productivity in farming. Once again collaboration has been key, with new technology combining with research and in-the-field expertise to help drive these concepts forward."
As a further part of the Farming Innovation Programme, UKRI has also announced the opening of the research starter round two competition. Tackling early-stage at-farmgate ideas from farmers and growers to solve major problems facing their business, the competition offers up to £1 million.
Bringing concepts to life
Katrina Hayter added: "Who understands the issues facing farmers better than the farmers themselves? We are always keen to support and make use of the on-the-ground knowledge that farmers, growers and foresters possess, and this competition enables some of these bold new ideas to be tested and researched at an early stage to see their potential for the wider sector. We look forward to helping farmers take the first steps to bringing their concept to life.
Details on the feasibility projects winners can be found in ‘further information’.
This article was first published on 9 June by Innovate UK.