A new £90 million investment to make it easier for farmers and agricultural supply-chain businesses to embrace technology and innovation has been announced by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP. The funding will help to bring together the UK’s world-class agri-food sector with expertise in robotics, AI and data science.
Clark revealed the exciting news in his keynote address at the National Farmers’ Union conference, saying:
“As part of the Industrial Strategy, we announced a Transforming Food Production Challenge and I’m delighted to announce the government will invest £90 million to make this challenge a reality.
“This will include the creation of ‘Translation Hubs’ bringing together farmers and growers businesses, scientists and Centres for Agricultural Innovation to apply the latest research to farming practice.”
The Business Secretary highlighted Rothamsted Research’s CROPROTECT app and Ordnance Survey’s satellite mapping as being particularly beneficial to farming and food production.
“The agricultural sector is the biggest industrial sector in the UK,” Clark told the conference attendees. “Employing almost 4 million people, it is larger than the automotive and aerospace sectors combined.
“For your unique role in stewardship and in feeding the nation like big industry, you need to be profitable and we need to help make the conditions right for investment in the future.
“With the technological revolution that is happening, the skills of the farming workforce need to keep pace. New technologies require new abilities and today’s modern British farmer is a Swiss-Army-Knife of skills. An engineer, an environmentalist, a data scientist a biochemist, an energy producer, a tourism entrepreneur, and an investor too.”
UK Research and Innovation will shortly open a new expressions of interest call for more industry-led challenges that will form part of the next wave of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
Government investment will help to support the agri-food sector by:
- Creating new Challenge Platforms to bring together business, farmers and academics on priority research projects
- Supporting Innovation Accelerators to explore commercial potential of new technology
- Demonstrating innovative agri-tech projects and how they will work in practice
- Launching a research programme to identify and accelerate international priorities and export opportunities for pioneering technologies
“I have known all my life that farming is foundational not just to our economy, but to our country,” said Clark. “Providing the food and drink we live on and stewarding the countryside that is so much part of our national and local identity means there is no more essential industry.”
Read the full announcement on gov.uk here.