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Cutting-edge farming projects to get share of £30m

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The UK government has allocated £30m to technological agriculture projects, including genetic research to reduce methane emissions from cows and the use of drones to monitor animals.

The 'Farming Innovation Programme' is funding research and development projects to help farmers and growers produce food more sustainably.

Up to £30m has been awarded to cutting-edge farming projects that are intended to help boost food production, move towards net zero and create a more resilient and sustainable agricultural sector.

The projects announced today include:

Ground-breaking genetics research projects which could reduce methane emissions in cattle by 17 per cent per generation and produce a reliable UK-grown protein source that can replace soya in human foods.

Investigations into the use of drones and artificial intelligence to inspect and monitor animals to enable farmers to take action should animals go missing or need attention.

Efforts to develop biopesticides using fungal strains that help tackle pests in wheat crops, and to pin-point the genetics for creating slug-resistant wheat.

Alongside the £30m to be awarded to more than 50 successful projects - in such areas as nitrogen efficiency, beef genetics, sustainable protein and biopesticides - the government has also made a further £12.5m available to fund innovative projects helping to deliver a more productive, resilient and sustainable agricultural sector.

The funding is all part of the Farming Innovation Programme, run in partnership with UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and delivered by Innovate UK, which is making £270m in grants available before the end of the  government's 2021-24 Agricultural Transition Plan to fund research and development projects to help farmers and growers produce food more sustainably.

Thérèse Coffey, secretary of state for agriculture, said: "Farmers are always forward-looking, and innovation is key to driving forward a resilient, productive and sustainable agriculture sector that puts food on our tables whilst protecting and restoring the environment.

"Alongside our new farming schemes, these grants will help to support farmers and pave the way for a technological transformation that will help produce food sustainably for generations to come".

Katrina Hayter, executive director for healthy living and agriculture at Innovate UK, said: "The competitions once again demonstrate the sheer breadth and quality of innovation within the UK agri-food space.

"We’re proud to be able to help deliver these funding and partnership opportunities to the sector, bringing together farmers, growers, technologists and researchers in a common aim of making the UK food system more sustainable and resilient. Whether improving existing production or introducing novel foods and techniques, the winners have all risen to the innovation challenge and we look forward to supporting their development further".

The grants follow the 'Farm to Fork Summit' held earlier this month, at which the government announced a package of support for the farming sector, including new measures to ensure the sector remains at the forefront of adopting new technologies and techniques. This includes substantial investment to unlock the potential of precision breeding following royal assent for the 'Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act' and a working group to bring plant breeders, food manufacturers and retailers together to agree an approach that enables these products to reach our shelves.

Additionally, the new ‘On-Farm Environmental Resilience’ competition will receive £12.5m to encourage farmers and growers to apply for up to £1m in project costs to drive the development of new technology and innovative farming methods, with a focus on practical solutions that make a real impact on farms.

Projects could find new ways to detect pests and prevent and manage disease; help farmers to reduce their fertiliser use; boost soil resilience, and manage threats from extreme weather and flooding. Projects researching how gene editing and methods including regenerative cropping could boost productivity and crop resilience are also encouraged to apply.

Details for the new competitions feasibility strand can be found online as well as details for the competition’s industrial research strand. Applications are accepted until Wednesday 19 July 2023.

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