Farmers who want to make use of new technologies, processes, and practices, as well as innovators who are looking to receive funding, are invited to an Agri-TechE event on June 15 that will include a discussion of a new fund to speed up adoption.
In November, Defra released the Agricultural Transition Plan, which outlines the major reforms that will be implemented as we transition away from the CAP system of farm subsidies. To assist farmers and producers boost production and reduce the environmental effect of agriculture, the future farming strategy promotes innovation. To promote agricultural innovation, research and development, Defra plans to create an R&D initiative in England in 2022.
At the Agri-TechE event, officials from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) will anchor a session to talk about how to support and speed up the adoption of new technology in agriculture.
Leah Segal, Defra’s Innovation R&D policy advisor, said, “We know that investing in innovation is risky and that this can stop farmers and growers from trying out new ideas. We want to help “de-risk” investments in innovation by giving support and money, and we want to help people share information about which innovations are worth implementing.
The Defra Innovation R&D program’s “Accelerating Adoption” fund will be used to help farmers lead innovation.
The fund will help farmers and growers connect with each other, with researchers, and with businesses so that they can try out new technologies, processes, and practices on their farms.
These will be small, agile initiatives that last up to two years. They will be used to test how well new technologies work and show farmers new ways of doing things.
The goal of these projects will be to figure out realistic solutions to pressing on-farm productivity issues.
Two More Funds
In accordance with the Agricultural Transition Plan, two additional funds will be made available to applicants in the coming year. These will capitalize on the good response to Defra and UKRI’s latest Farming Innovation Pathways competition.
The first fund will be to promote industry-led research on major projects to come up with technology and new ways to solve problems that businesses face with their productivity.
The second will fund cooperative R&D in which farming and agri-food firms collaborate with scientists and researchers to tackle longer-term societal concerns like Net Zero, and will be guided by Defra’s themes.
The funding initiative will also include support for information exchange between farmers, growers, businesses, and researchers, allowing the projects’ outcomes and lessons to be broadly disseminated. This is necessary to ensure widespread usage of new and tested innovative technology, methods, and practices, which will result in real-world advantages for farmers and producers.
Co-creation of research projects
Farmers and producers will be able to participate in other initiatives by partaking in project teams and co-designing studies, outputs, and strategies for sharing results, in addition to on-farm trials under the ‘accelerating adoption’ grant.
Leah cites the REMEDY project (which stands for ‘REal tiME DairY’ and is sponsored by UKRI’s Transforming Food Production programme) as an example of a project that successfully engaged farmers in the setup and presentation of a technology that monitors cow behaviour and nutrition to offer useful information for making decisions.
“We’re working together with our partners in Defra and UKRI to make sure that there’s a distinct connection between different programmes so farmers and growers know where to seek help,” Leah Segal said.
“For example, if a technological solution that was tested through the Defra Innovation R&D sponsorship programme becomes widely available on the market, farmers and growers may be able to get help through follow-on initiatives to invest in the technology.
“The programme on June 15 is a good chance for users to find out more about the funding plans, which are still being made. We would also like to hear more from people who might use the technology in the end. This is because we are presently co-designing the fund to make sure it can offer the necessary support to invest in innovation.
Focus on Funding Programme
There will be speakers from Defra, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRi), Transforming Food Production, Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Partnership at the Focus on Funding virtual event.
In addition, there will be an Agri-Tech Business Plaza where a number of business support institutions such as GrantTree, LMixology, MMP Tax, Rothamsted Enterprises, RSM and Trendlines will be on hand to give drop-in clinics as well as talk about their services.
More details about the Focus on Funding event are available here; Agri-Tech Business Plaza, on Tuesday, June 15th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The History of Recent Funding Announcements
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) was established by the government in November 2017 to encourage innovation.
Transforming Food Production (TFP) is the name of the stream targeted at agriculture, which is run by Innovate UK and UKRI.
Transforming Food Production
The Transforming Food Production challenge encourages novel approaches to food production that minimise emissions and pollution while also helping to feed the world’s rising population.
Subsequent agricultural systems – now under development are technologies for producing substitute proteins from insects and waste gases, as well as vertical farming innovation.
New techniques of automation and robotics, as well as enhanced diagnostics for animal diseases and soil monitoring, are among the projects putting science and technology into practice.
International prospects – this is focused on exporting to Canada and China.
Investment ecosystems –- designed to help investors put their money into agri-tech.
The government then released a plan called “The Path to Sustainable Farming: An Agricultural Transition Plan for 2021 to 2024.” (November 2020). This plan covers the time when UK farmers will now get Direct Payments. (EU farmers who are actively farming get direct payments in the form of a basic income support per hectare.)
Instead, the UK government will use the funds to pay farmers to develop the environment, animal health and wellbeing, and cut carbon emissions, in addition to payments to boost productivity.
Two funds were revealed as part of the roadmap:
In April 2021, the Farming Investment Fund (Equipment & Technology, and Transformation) will be launched.
Defra’s Innovation R&D programme will begin in 2022.
The three financing goals of the Innovation R&D Program are based on these concepts:
Industry-led syndicates — bringing together farmers and growers with researchers and agri-food companies to tackle problems that are unique to their industry.
Themed Cooperative R&D— connects together food companies and researchers to work on more foundational studies.
Speeding up Adoption: Help for relatively small, farmer-led research and development projects to show that both new and old technologies can work.
Farming Innovation Pathways
Farming Innovation Pathways is a link between Transforming Food Production (TFP) and the Defra Innovation R&D Programme, and it will be implemented by the TFP team, which includes agricultural experts and has been working closely with the agri-tech sector.
The initial round of competitions concluded in April, and the winners will be notified on June 18th, with projects getting underway in October of that year.