£31.2m fund to help farmers be greener and produce more

Farmers set to benefit from innovations that boost food production and cut down on waste
Farmers set to benefit from innovations that boost food production and cut down on waste

Numerous projects are set to receive funding worth £31.2m so they can use the latest technologies to help farmers cut down on pollution and produce more food.

Government and industry funding will support projects that seek to keep farmers producing food but in a more sustainable way.

Rootwave, in Warwickshire, is one company that has received funding. It will use a £690,000 grant to use electricity instead of chemicals to kill weeds via the roots avoiding damage to crops.

Lincolnshire-based company Tuberscan will use £391,000 to develop ground penetrating radar, underground scans and AI to monitor potato crops and identify when they are ready to harvest.

This technology could increase the usable crop by an estimated 5%-10% and reduce food waste with minimal extra cost.

A project in Middlesex will receive a £233,000 grant to help cows graze without farmer supervision by placing sensors on farm gates that communicate with GPS trackers on cows to open and close gates allowing cattle to graze freely.

Dunbia, based in County Tyrone, NI, will receive £2.4m to develop the world’s first platform for data to be input covering the beef supply chain.

It is anticipated that the pooling of this data can help avoid disease, improve business performance and improve product quality.

Meanwhile, aiScope, a project based in Sheffield, will use a £1 million grant to apply AI and analysis to tackle the common cereal weed, Blackgrass, potentially saving farmers £580 million a year.

Producing food while helping the environment

The projects have benefited from the Transforming Food Production Challenge, a £90 million Industrial Strategy fund to help researchers and industry transform farming and meet the needs of a growing population.

It will also contribute towards providing greener processes for farmers, helping towards the UK's commitment to a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The government's Science Minister, Chris Skidmore announced the project funding on Friday (28 June).

He said: “The projects announced today will ensure we lead the way in supporting our vital farming industry, delivering high quality food for consumers while reducing the wider environmental impact.

“This is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy, investing in ground-breaking projects, creating highly skilled jobs and providing a cleaner, greener future for generations to come.”

Increasing population

It is predicted that 60% more food will be needed worldwide by 2050 to feed the increasing global population.

To do this the industry is increasing looking toward more resilient and sustainable ways to produce, according to Farming Minister Robert Goodwill.

“Agri-tech can help us address the biggest challenges facing the agriculture industry, such as eradicating crop pests and diseases for arable farmers without harming the wider environment,” Mr Goodwill said.

“In 2018 we saw the total value of agri-tech investment worldwide skyrocket to $17 billion – an increase of 40% on the previous year.

“Today’s funding will enable more investment in new technology, helping lead to scientific breakthroughs that could transform the sustainability of global food supply chains.”