Three cutting-edge projects will receive a share of over £9 million in funding to carry out research and development on proposals to boost farming productivity.
The funding will support projects developing robotic crop harvesting for horticulture and an autonomous system to change cows’ bedding to improve productivity.
The funding, announced by Defra on Friday (24 March), will also go toward a more environmentally-friendly approach to potato cultivation.
The three projects are being supported through the Large R&D Partnership competition, which is part of the government’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme.
A second round of the competition is currently open for applications.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: "It’s important that we fund projects like these – and those still to come in future rounds – as we support farmers to deliver sustainable food production and protect the environment.
"Innovation, research and development will help keep the sector at the cutting edge of technology as we look into the future."
The Agri-Opencore project, led by APS Produce, has been awarded over £3.8m to accelerate the delivery of robotic crop systems for horticulture.
With labour shortages affecting the horticulture sector around the world, there are huge opportunities to reduce costs and labour requirements.
The funding will help the project create the world’s first open development platform (software and hardware) for agri-robotic crop harvesting.
The open development platform will enable multiple organisations to contribute, allowing cross-sector collaboration and demonstration of technologies on English farms.
It is hoped that the project will help to accelerate the adoption of robotic picking by two years.
Phil Pearson, from APS Produce, said: "The AGRI-OPENCORE robotics project is an exciting, and vital project for the fresh produce industry.
"It promises to deliver the significant progress required to automate fresh produce harvesting in the UK.
"As this work brings leading technology providers, Dogtooth, Xihelm and Wootzano, with the academic excellence of the University of Lincoln team, we can expect significant progress towards autonomous harvesting.