Ahead of its launch in January, Defra has published guidance for the third round of the Farming Futures Research and Development Fund competition focusing on agriculture and robotics.
In partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Defra will match-fund projects which will boost productivity and sustainable farming practices through the development of automation and robotic technologies on farm.
The fund aims to bring together agri-food businesses and researchers to address strategic and sector-wide challenges through transformative solutions. Previously funded projects have included fruit scouting robots, automated vegetable harvesters and new types of fertiliser.
Farmers, growers, businesses, and researchers are being invited to apply for a share of £12.5 million, with grants for projects worth between £500,000 and £1.5 million available.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “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.
“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.”
Katrina Hayter, Interim Executive Director Healthy Living & Agriculture, Innovate UK, 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.
“The competition will consider ideas for bringing forward this technology, and also look at how automation can support necessary farm labour, 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.”
This investment forms part of the £270m Farming Innovation Programme, which was launched in October 2021. More than £70 million has been spent so far on industry-led research and development in agriculture and horticulture.
Applications can be submitted from 9 January 2023, and project leads should be UK-registered businesses of any size while farmers can participate as part of a wider consortium.