Nine innovative projects that apply big data, AI and robotics to UK farming will benefit from £24 million government investment to help the UK meet its net zero target by reducing carbon emissions in food production.
The Transforming Food Production initiative is part of the wider industrial strategy and aims to fund larger more inspirational risky projects that would not be possible without government support. Agri-TechE members involved in these projects include: B-Hive, Deep Branch Biotechnology, NIAB and University of Lincoln.
Katrina Hayter, Challenge Director, Transforming Food Production comments: “I was delighted and inspired by the great response from the UK’s agriculture community to this call, which was for bold, innovative approaches to radically change the way food is produced.
“We set out to attract new-to-agriculture companies to work alongside those who understand the industry and were really impressed by the range and number of applications that were received. This was an ambitious call, with the aim of funding a few, large, exciting transformational projects and we are optimistic that with Innovate UK’s support, these projects will go on to be game-changers for the UK food system.”
The projects include alternative production systems with a supporting strand to create demonstrations. It also encouraged new players to bring new technologies and skills into the sector, for example Drax power station and Optimal are new to agriculture.
Agri-TechE members are involved in Transforming Food Production projects
REACT-FIRST converts carbon dioxide into clean animal feed Led by Nottingham company Deep Branch Biotechnology, the project will use its unique technology to turn carbon dioxide from Drax Power’s Selby power station into animal food with minimal water usage and without the need for arable farmland.
The funding will allow the consortium to provide a greener alternative to soy and fishmeal for the animal industry, enabling industries that traditionally create higher levels of waste, such as agriculture, to contribute to a cleaner environment.
The project will work with leading retailer Sainsbury’s as well as the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre to integrate into the fish and poultry supply chain, helping to ensure that industry demand is met. ( Read more about this project)
World’s first Autonomous Growing System (AGS), led by Optimal Labs in London, this project will provide autonomous technology that controls climate, irrigation and lighting, enabling any crop variety to be grown in any location. This will significantly increase production levels and resource-efficiency in existing UK greenhouses, helping to protect the UK’s food system against climate change and population growth. NIAB is one of the collaborators.
Robot Highways demonstrator of autonomous technology (Lincoln) led by Saga Robotics, will receive nearly £2.5 million to perform the largest known global demonstration of robotics and autonomous technologies on a farm. The robots will assist farmers by carrying out essential, energy intensive physical farm processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops to reduce critical pests and diseases. The consortium includes the University of Lincoln. (Read more about this project.)
Production at the Point of Consumption autonomous growing systems (Maidstone) led by Evogro, will receive nearly £850,000 to research and develop the next generation of autonomous growing systems, to ensure they are affordable for new consumer markets, and to make it an economic method to produce mainstream crops.
InFarm2.x vertical growing systems (London) led by vertical farming business InFarm will receive over £3 million to develop a farming system that can grow a wider variety of fruit and vegetables than is currently possible by growing their crops in vertically stacked levels, rather than on a single level surface, such as a field. It will also use technology including gas sensors and monitoring cameras to observe the growth patterns of their crops, helping to identify the optimal growing conditions, increasing productivity.
AGRI-SATT growing food from algae in deserts (London) led by Feed Algae, will receive over £4 million for its project which is based around an algae growing system that exploits natural seawater to produce food in deserts. This project aims to combine data from the growing system with satellite data to automate production and increase the nutritional quality of the food produced.
GelPonic water conservation (Manchester), led by AEH Innovative Hydrogel, has developed a new growth material that will improve crop yields on farms worldwide. It will receive over £1 million to develop a material that conserves water and protects plants by filtering pathogens and includes a new graphene-based IoT device that allows remote-monitoring of conditions in vertical farms.
REMEDY precision technology for dairy producers (Bath), led by Quality Milk Management Services, will receive over £1.7 million to provide precision technologies to dairy farmers enabling them to access real time data to ensure their farm is as productive, efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. This includes technology such as wearable devices for cows that tracks their behaviour and nutrition, ensuring farmers can make more informed decisions when managing their farm.
TUBERSCAN-DEMO improving potato yield (Lincoln), led by B-hive, will receive nearly £2 million to develop and test an innovative demonstrator system to measure average potato sizes and yield throughout potato fields, providing insights that will enable selective harvesting to take place, optimising crop yield and resource use. It is anticipated that this technology could generate an estimated 5-10% increase in UK marketable potato production.
The investment in new resource efficient, low-emission production systems is part of the government’s commitment to boost spending on research and development to £22 billion by 2024 to 2025. It follows the publication earlier this month of the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap, announced by the Business Secretary.