Small and medium-sized farm businesses will be able to apply for a share of £5 million to fund innovative ideas aimed at boosting sustainable food production, supporting nature recovery and driving progress towards net zero as a new competition launches later this month.
Building on the Nature for Finance event at Downing Street last month, the Farming Innovation Investor Partnership Competition aims to accelerate agricultural research and development by blending grant funding with private investment.
It specifically seeks to support pioneering projects across the agricultural sector that have demonstrated the potential to grow and generate revenue, supporting the commercialisation of on-farm technologies that can then be rolled out across the industry.
The competition is set to open on Monday 24th July, and projects are encouraged to apply from across the livestock, arable, horticulture, bioeconomy and agroforestry sectors.
Applicants can bid for up to 45% of project costs in grant funding, which must be matched by at least twice the amount in private investment. There is no limit to the level of private investment for projects, and previous schemes have shown the ability to attract significantly higher levels of investment.
The competition, which is funded by Defra, run in partnership with UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and delivered by Innovate UK, represents an extension of the government’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme.
Examples of projects already benefitting from the scheme include autonomous livestock monitoring systems, robotic fruit harvesting systems, concentrated light weeding using AI, intelligent robotic cow cubicles and digital crop management for the early detection of glasshouse pests and diseases.
By supporting projects at the later stage of innovation, the new competition is expected to drive increased commercialisation and adoption within the industry, and also aims to elevate the profile of the agri-tech sector by positioning it as a central focus for UK investors.
Moreover, it delivers on commitments made at the UK Farm to Fork Summit in May to boost growth, innovation and improve sustainability across the food supply chain in order to keep the nation fed while delivering nature recovery for our countryside.
Farming minister Mark Spencer commented: “Supporting a resilient, sustainable and innovative agriculture sector that puts food on our tables while safeguarding the environment is my priority, and we are working with farmers to deliver this through our new farming schemes and grants.
“By bringing together cutting-edge agri-innovation and public and private investment, we can unlock new technologies that help make our farm businesses as productive as possible.”
In order to apply, projects must be led by a sole UK registered micro, small, or medium-sized business and exhibit clear and tangible connections to farmers, growers, agri-businesses, and other potential end-users. Investors for the programme will be selected from the pool of Innovate UK Investor Partners which currently comprises 80 partners and growing.