Nine new projects to share latest wave of government's green farming R&D funding
The government has announced the recipients for its latest wave of sustainable farming R&D funding, awarding £24m of support to nine projects working on everything from carbon capture technologies to fruit-picking robots.
The new funding was awarded on Friday through two competitions delivered under UK Research & Innovation's (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Transforming Food Production (TFP) challenge: the Future Food Production Systems competition and the Science and Technology into Practice Demonstration competition.
"From robotics assisting our farmers in fruit picking, to technology that converts CO2 to clean animal feed, the incredible projects we are backing today represent the future of farming," said Science Minister Amanda Solloway.
"Working with the best of British science, we are turning our most creative ideas into pioneering projects that will accelerate our transition to net zero food production, boost jobs and drive forward the UK's economic recovery."
Recipients of the funding include Nottingham-based consortium REACT-FIRST, which has been awarded over £2m to support its work to generate clean, sustainable food for fish and poultry that boasts a carbon footprint that is up to 75 per cent smaller than current products.
Led by Nottingham company Deep Branch Biotechnology, the project will use its unique technology to turn carbon dioxide captured at Drax's Selby power station into animal food that can be produced with minimal water usage and without the need for arable farmland.
The hope is that approach can provide a greener alternative to soy and fishmeal for the animal industry, slashing the environmental footprint of feedstocks.
The project will also work with Sainsbury's and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre to integrate into the fish and poultry supply chain.
Other projects receiving funding include the world's first Autonomous Growing System (AGS), led by Optimal Labs in London, which will receive over £2m to provide autonomous technology that controls climate, irrigation and lighting, enabling any crop variety to be grown in any location.
Meanwhile a project led by Saga Robotics in Lincoln will receive nearly £2.5m 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.
Autonomous technologies have been tipped as a means of slashing costs, minimising waste, and optimising processes across the food supply chain.
"It's great to see investment in these outstanding ideas which will help us tackle the farming industry's greatest challenges, from achieving net zero emissions to investing in sustainable alternative protein for animal feed," said Farming Minister Victoria Prentis. "Farming has never before been at the centre of such exciting and forward looking innovations."
Other projects to receive funding including a number of vertical farming initiatives, an algae-based project that hopes to use seawater to grow food in arid environments, and several projects that aim to use advanced sensors and software solutions to optimise growing conditions for a range of crops.
Winners of BEIS funding round revealed as it launches research initiative to explore and design zero emissions aviation technology
Environment Secretary George Eustice announces £9m for policy pilots as he promises to 'build back greener' after Covid-19 and Brexit
Environment Secretary George Eustice's speech at Green Alliance event setting out his vision for a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic
REACT-FIRST consortium aims to turn CO2 captured at Drax’s biomass power plant in Yorkshire into sustainable animal feed