Farmers interested in adopting new technologies, processes and practices and innovators seeking funding, are invited to attend an event on 15th June being held by Agri-TechE, which includes discussion of a new accelerating adoption fund.
As set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan published in November, Defra is bringing in landmark changes as we move away from the CAP system of farming subsidy payments. A key part of the future farming approach is supporting innovation to help farmers and growers increase productivity and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. From 2022 Defra will launch an Innovation R&D programme for agriculture in England.
Officials from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will host a session at the Agri-TechE event to discuss ways to support and accelerate the adoption of innovative technology in the agricultural sector.
Leah Segal, Innovation R&D policy advisor at Defra, said: “We appreciate the risk involved in investing in innovation, and how it can be a barrier for farmers and growers looking to trial new ideas. We want to provide support and funding to ‘de-risk’ investment in innovation and help share knowledge on which innovations are worth adopting.”
The ‘Accelerating Adoption’ fund of the Defra Innovation R&D programme will be specifically aimed at farmer-led innovation.
The fund will provide facilitation and funding for farmers and growers to connect with each other, as well as with researchers and businesses, to trial innovative technologies, processes and practices on-farm.
These will be small agile projects up to 2 years, to test the feasibility of new technology and demonstrate new methods to the farming community.
These projects will be focused on finding practical solutions to immediate on-farm productivity challenges.
Two further funds
As set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan, two other funds will open to applicants next year. These will build on the positive response to the recent Farming Innovation Pathways competition developed by Defra and UKRI.
The first will be to encourage industry led research on large-scale projects to develop technology and innovative solutions to shared productivity challenges that affect businesses.
The second will support collaborative R&D where farming and agri-food businesses work with scientists and researchers to address longer-term societal challenges, such as Net Zero, and will have themes set by Defra.
The funding programme will also be underpinned by support for knowledge exchange between farmers, growers, businesses, and researchers, so that the results and learnings from the projects can be shared widely. This is critical to ensuring widespread adoption of novel and trialled innovative technologies, processes and practices which will then lead to real world benefits for farmers and growers.
Co-design of research programmes
As well as on-farm trials through the ‘accelerating adoption’ fund, farmers and growers will also be able to get involved in other projects by participating in project teams and co-designing research, outputs and plans for sharing results.
Leah gives the example, of the ‘REMEDY’ project (which stands for ‘REal tiME DairY’ and is funded through UKRI’s Transforming Food Production programme) as a project that has successfully involved farmers in the design and demonstration of a technology that tracks cow behaviour and nutrition to provide insights for decision-making.
Leah Segal said: “We are working closely with our other colleagues in Defra and UKRI to ensure there is a clear link between different schemes, so farmers and growers know where to look for support.
“For instance, if a technological solution – trialled through the Defra Innovation R&D funding programme – then becomes readily available on the market, there may be potential for farmers and growers to receive support to invest in the technology through follow-on schemes.
“The event on the 15th June is a good opportunity for users to learn more about the planned funding schemes, which are still being developed. We would also welcome further input of potential end users of the technology as we are currently co-designing the fund to ensure that it can provide the support that is needed for investment in innovation.”
Focus on Funding event
The Focus on Funding event is being held virtually and will have speakers from Defra, UKRI, Transforming Food Production, Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Partnership.
This will be complemented by a Agri-Tech Business Plaza where a number of business support organisations: GrantTree, LMixology, MMP Tax, Rothamsted Enterprises, RSM, Trendlines – will be offering drop in clinics and discussing their services.
More information about the event Focus on Funding with the Agri-Tech Business Plaza
Tuesday 15th June @ 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
BACKGROUND TO THE LATEST FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENTS
The government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) was launched in November 2017 to stimulate innovation.
The stream directed at agriculture is called Transforming Food Production (TFP) and it is managed by Innovate UK and UKRI.
Transforming Food Production
The Transforming Food Production challenge is supporting new ways to produce food that reduce emissions and pollution and contribute to feeding a growing world population.
- Future food production systems – ongoing projects include technologies for creating alternative proteins from insects and waste gases, also innovation for vertical farming
- Science and technology into practice – projects include new methods of automation and robotics and also improved diagnostics for animal diseases, and monitoring of soils
- International opportunities – this is directed at export opportunities to Canada and China
- Investment ecosystems – aimed at supporting the investment community invest in agri-tech
Subsequently the government announced its roadmap “The Path to Sustainable Farming: An agricultural transition plan 2021 to 2024” (November 2020). This plan covers the period when Direct Payments are being withdrawn to UK farmers. (Direct payments are granted to active EU farmers in the form of a per-hectare basic income support.)
The UK government will instead invest the money to pay farmers to improve the environment, animal health and welfare and reduce carbon emissions, alongside grants to improve productivity.
As part of the roadmap two funds were announced:
- Farming Investment Fund (Equipment & Technology, and Transformation) to be launched April 2021
- Defra’s Innovation R&D programme to be launched in 2022
Defra’s Innovation R&D Programme (to open 2022)
The Innovation R&D Programme has three funding aims, based on the following principles:
- Industry-led syndicates – connecting farmers and growers with researchers and agri-food businesses to work on industry specific challenges
- Themed collaborative R&D – brings together food businesses and researchers on more fundamental research
- Accelerating Adoption – support for smaller-scale, farmer-led R&D projects to demonstrate the viability of new and existing technologies.
Farming Innovation Pathways
Farming Innovation Pathways is a bridge between Transforming Food Production (TFP) and the Defra Innovation R&D Programme, and it will be delivered by the TFP team that have been working closely with the agri-tech sector and include agricultural specialists.
The first competition closed in April and the applicants will be informed of the outcome on 18th June 2021 and projects will start in October 2021.
More information about the funding is available through the Future Farming blog https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/