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A crystal ball for apple growers, robot courgette harvester and advanced aeroponics gain feasibility funding


YAGRO, Muddy Machines and LettUs Grow are to benefit from UKRI funding as part of the ‘Feasibility Studies’ call of the Farming Innovation Programme.

The Farming Innovation Programme has four tiers – Research Starter; Feasibility Studies; R&D partnerships and Farming Futures R&D – and it follows on from the Transforming Food Production Challenge.

Transforming Food Production

The UKRI’s Transforming Food Production challenge was established in 2018 to encourage innovative solutions to intractable problems within the agri-food chain. It aimed to help the agricultural sector grow economically with less environmental impact.

Many organisations within the Agri-TechE ecosystem have benefited from TFP funding:

June 2019 – Transforming Food Production – Agri-TechE members in 19 of the 31 projects

July 2020 – Transforming Food Production announces 9 innovative projects

The team behind TFP are now managing delivery of the UKRI Farming Innovation Programme (launched Feb 2021) and the winners were announced on 9th June 2022 for the ‘Feasibility Projects’ call.

Farming Innovation Programme – winners of the Feasibility Projects call 

Exciting projects being funded as part of the feasibility projects competition have been announced and many organisations within the Agri-TechE ecosystem have been successful in their applications.

Project Crystal Ball: predict and preserve profitability of orchardsYAGRO

YAGRO is a pioneer in the development of analytics for agriculture. The company released a ground-breaking new product in 2020 that aggregates on-farm business data into a simple online tool, and gives the farm manager incredible detail and insight on the farm’s current and historical performance.

The company has been awarded funding to integrate yield and quality estimates to data on production costs and market prices. This will enable them to understand the commercial value of their crop as variables change.

Robotic Courgette Harvester – Muddy Machines 

Agri-tech start-up Muddy Machines, which featured in the REAP 2021 Start-up Showcase, has already developed an automated asparagus harvesting platform capable of distinguishing spears from weeds, and is now extending its capability to courgettes.

The autonomous asparagus harvester uses an automated gripper arm to cut the asparagus that is within the grower’s spec and place it in a container, and it can predict yields, thereby increasing the value of the crop.

LettUs Grow Aeroponics

Advanced Aeroponics: supercharging horticultural productivityLettUs Grow 

LettUs Grow are leaders in the development of aeroponic technology for vertical farming. One of its solutions is ‘Drop and Grow, a self-contained vertical farm in a shipping container that aims to introduce the concept to community groups. The new project will design and manufacture a prototype Advanced Aeroponic rolling bench system to increase productivity and resource use efficiency.

HerdView: automated weight tracking for beef cattleAgsenze Ltd

The HerdView project will assess the feasibility of adapting Agsenze technology to create an automated system that gives accurate daily weights to track daily cow growth and predict weight, grade, fat information for beef cattle.

This enables farmers to better manage feeding while reducing effort and animal distress as well as reducing costs.

Automated selective broccoli harvesting to increase grower productivityEarth Rover Ltd

Earth Rover is to develop a prototype broccoli harvesting machine that aims to harvest the whole plant, opening up the potential to create valuable and nutritious plant-based foods from what was previously seen as crop waste. (Start-Up Showcase 2022).

Farming Innovation Programme funding calls

The Farming Innovation Programme is a partnership between Defra and UKRI to increase innovation in farming through investment in research and development for a more efficient and productive sector. Find out more information about the Farming Innovation Programme here.

Feasibility Projects – 20 October 2021 – 1 December 2021 – winners announced – see the full list here.

Large R&D partnerships (round 1) 30 March 2022 29 June 2022 Details available
Research Starter (round 2) 23 May 2022 6 July 2022 Details available
Farming Futures (theme 2: sustainable proteins) Summer 2022
Feasibility Studies (round 2) Autumn 2022
Small R&D partnerships (round 2) Autumn 2022

More information about the Transforming Food Production Challenge.