A new £12 million research and development fund, Farming Innovation Pathways, has been announced by Defra and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
It will focus on addressing challenges across the agri-food sector, with priorities including robotics and automation.
It will build on the innovations funded by the Transforming Food Production programme, which has seen advancement in areas as diverse as insect farming, sustainable livestock feed, agricultural robotics and autonomous growing systems.
Farming Innovation Pathways will be open to ideas addressing challenges across the agri-food sector. Priorities will include robotics and automation, which could include things like vision-guided robotic weeding systems, and novel food production systems, including vertical farming.
Katrina Hayter, challenge director for UKRI’s Transforming Food Production challenge, said: “Working alongside Defra for this competition will ensure a coordinated approach to support innovation to help drive future green growth and develop a world-leading sustainable agricultural sector. "There are many new individual solutions for the farming sector, but strong engagement with farmers in the innovation process ensures that these solutions can be quickly deployed within an agricultural production system. “It is also really important that we can demonstrate the benefits of these solutions to farmers and growers, as well as the wider industry.
"There are many economic and environmental challenges facing the agriculture sector in the UK and further afield. In this context, it is vital that we work with innovators and farmers to ensure good ideas and new technologies have clear routes to adoption, effective business benefits for users and the ability to improve longer-term productivity and sustainability of the sector.” Victoria Prentis, Defra Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, said: “The Farming Innovation Pathways competition offers farmers and growers the opportunity to see their bold and innovative ideas become reality, and to drive forward green growth in the sector. “We want to see farmers manage their businesses in a way that delivers profitable food production and the recovery of nature, using the best modern technology available today. "Promising innovations such as robotics and automation, and novel food production systems have the potential to transform business performance for our farmers and help them address some of the industry’s greatest challenges. “