From January 9th 2023, farmers, growers and agri-tech businesses in England will be able to apply for funding to develop innovative ideas in the areas of robotics and automation.
Defra has published guidance for the third round of the Farming Futures Research and Development competition focusing on agriculture and horticulture robotics.
In partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Defra will match-fund projects which will boost productivity and sustainable farming practices through the development of automation and robotic technologies on farms.
The fund aims to bring together agri-food businesses and researchers to address strategic and sector-wide challenges through transformative solutions.
About the funding
Farmers, growers, businesses and researchers are being invited to apply for a share of £12.5 million, with grants for projects worth between £500,000 and £1.5 million available.
The competition is split into two strands:
- Strand 1: Farming Futures: automation and robotics, industrial research - collaborative, industry-led research projects with project costs between £500,000 and £1 million over 36-48 months
- Strand 2: Farming Futures: automation and robotics, experimental development - collaborative, experimental development projects with project costs between £750,000 and £1.5 million over 24-36 months
Projects must be collaborative. This is a business-led competition and Defra encourages farmers and growers to be part of the project teams.
Project leads should be UK-registered businesses of any size, while farmers and growers can participate as part of a wider consortium.
The competition opens on January 9th 2023.
The competition closes on March 15th 2023.
What can be funded
Horticultural and arable crop production and all livestock are in scope. Controlled environment and vertical farming systems are also in scope.
Projects should demonstrate the benefits to farmers and growers in England and address challenges where automation and robotic solutions will benefit food production systems through greater efficiency and resilience.
Example projects could include: robotics to move fruit from picker to packing station; robotic feeding and cleaning mechanisms for livestock; monitoring livestock welfare; and automatic monitoring of soil, plant health and crop yields.
The competition will not cover funding for ornamental, non-food crops or wild-caught fisheries.
Learn more about applying
UKRI and Innovate UK are holding online events for businesses, farmers and growers who want to apply for funding such as this to learn more about how to do so.
The next event is on January 18th 2023. You can register to attend here.
How applications will be assessed
This video explains how the applications will be selected.
By investing in robotics and automation, Defra hope to improve productivity on farms, encourage sustainable farming practices, and use data to improve animal welfare and food quality. In the long term, the hope is that investment in this area will help to reduce input costs. Automation and robotics were also identified in the National Food Strategy for their potential to promote growth in the sector.
This investment forms part of the £270m Farming Innovation Programme, which was launched in October 2021. More than £70 million has been spent so far on industry-led research and development in agriculture and horticulture.
For more information, read the Future Farming Blog post.