UK agriculture and robotics receive £12.5 million funding
DEFRA has committed to further funding for agriculture and horticulture automation and robotics to improve productivity.
Ahead of its January launch, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published guidance for the third round of the Farming Futures Research and Development Fund competition which focuses on agriculture and robotics.
In order to boost productivity and sustainable farming practises via the development of automation and robotic technologies on farms, DEFRA will be match-funding projects in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
“This is an exciting opportunity for farmers and growers to come together with businesses and researchers to invent ingenious solutions to the problems our agriculture and horticulture sectors face,” said Mark Spencer, Farming Minister for DEFRA.
The UK Government is inviting farmers, growers, businesses and researchers to apply for a share of £12.5 million, with grants for projects worth between £500,000 and £1.5 million available.
The aim of the funding is to bring together agri-food businesses and researchers so that transformative solutions can be made to address strategic and sector-wide challenges.
“Automation and robotics has huge potential to improve productivity and sustainability and by supporting some of the most promising ideas to get off the ground we are investing in a successful agriculture and horticulture industry for generations to come,” continued Spencer.
The £12.5 million investment comes as part of the UK Government’s £270 million Farming Innovation Programme which launched in October 2021. So far, more than £70 million of the total funding has reportedly been spent on industry-led research and development in agriculture and horticulture.
Commenting on the importance of innovation in the agricultural sector, Katrina Hayter, Industrial Strategy Challenge Director – Transforming Food Production at UKRI, said: “Innovation through automation and the use of game-changing technology is one of the central pillars of a future food system in the UK.
“The ability to plan, monitor, alert and review through digital systems brings substantial benefits to farmers and growers – from animal and crop health through to optimising harvest, waste reduction and environmental impact.”
Hayter has emphasised that the competition will consider ideas for bringing forward this technology, as well as looking at how automation can support farm labour thus making roles “more effective and productive for all involved”.
“With such opportunity, we look forward to studying the new concepts within the applications, and to supporting some of the best and brightest ideas in bringing their projects to the next stage,” said Hayter.