New funding pot for automation and robotics in ag and horticulture sectors - Fruit & Vine

New funding pot for automation and robotics in ag and horticulture sectors

Defra is inviting growers, businesses and researchers to apply for a share of the £12.5 million funding, for projects focused on cutting-edge innovations to boost productivity, reduce labour demands and create more sustainable practices.

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Together with UK Research and Innovation, Defra will match-fund projects that boost productivity and sustainable farming by developing automation and robotic technologies on farm.

Previously funded projects have included fruit scouting robots, automated vegetable harvesters and new types of fertiliser.

Ahead of the launch in January, Defra has published guidance for the third round of the Farming Futures Research and Development Fund competition. Grants are available for projects worth £500,000–£1.5M.

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 have 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, industrial strategy challenge director – transforming food production at UKRI, added: “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 this technology forward and will also look at how automation can make farm roles more effective and productive, she added.

“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.”

The latest funding forms part of Defra’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme, which was launched in October 2021.

Applications can be submitted from 13th January 2023, and project leads should be UK-registered businesses of any size while farmers can participate as part of a wider consortium. Read the guidance here:

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