Fifty innovative projects have been announced from four key competitions in the latest Farming Innovation Programme milestones
Following the completion of four substantial competitions under the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) Farming Innovation Programme, 50 projects have secured valuable funding. This will allow them to advance their innovations that aim to address some of the key issues facing the farmers and growers in England.
The competitions, delivered by Innovate UK’s Transforming Food Production challenge, covered a range of important innovation areas, including climate-focused solutions, farming technology and smaller research and development (R&D) concepts still at their early stages.
In each case, the ability to demonstrate a project’s role in meeting net zero, productivity and sustainability ambitions across the food space was key to their success.
The Climate Smart Funding competition offered a share of up to £12.5 million to projects that were able to demonstrate solutions that help the agriculture sector to reduce emissions and reach net zero aims.
Projects were required to identify how they supported farmers, growers and foresters in the UK to improve practices and tackle common issues.
Winners included Aganalyst’s nitrogen efficiency project. Nitrogen based fertilisers are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. By using plants as sensors, this project will provide farmers with a Framework for improving Nitrogen efficiency (FINE), a management tool to support better fertiliser utilisation and reporting. By using remote sensing, sensors and soil measurement, a more efficient approach can be taken to fertiliser timings and rates, supporting a more effective and profitable process.
On the feasibility study side, one notable winner was the sustainable control method project run by Crop Health and Protection. This project looks to provide sustainable and climate-resistant alternative products for legume farmers. It will identify new products to stimulate plant growth, increase tolerance to climatic stress, and help manage pests and diseases. These solutions will include natural products and living microorganisms, which would help reduce the dependency on fossil fuel derived products and increase resilience in the crops themselves.
The feasibility round two competition formed part of the Programme’s Industry-Led R&D Partnerships Fund and offered a share of up to £5.5 million. Projects were asked to offer early-stage solutions that have the potential to improve productivity, sustainability and resilience across farming, with a view to meeting net zero ambitions.
“The competitions once again demonstrate the sheer breadth and quality of innovation within the UK agri-food space,” Katrina Hayter of Innovate UK, said. “We’re proud to be able to help deliver these funding and partnership opportunities to the sector, bringing together farmers, growers, technologists and researchers in a common aim of making the UK food system more sustainable and resilient. Whether improving existing production or introducing novel foods and techniques, the winners have all risen to the innovation challenge and we look forward to supporting their development further.”