Defra opens £27m pot to help farmers invest in new tech

The Farming Investment Fund will provide grants to farmers so they can invest in new equipment and technology
The Farming Investment Fund will provide grants to farmers so they can invest in new equipment and technology

Farmers can now apply from a £27 million pot to adopt new technology and invest in productivity-boosting equipment as the Farming Investment Fund opens from today.

Farmers and growers in England are being urged by the government to apply for grants to buy new equipment to help the industry become more sustainable.

This could include solar powered electric fences, water treatment systems that use ultraviolet light rather than chemicals and cameras for monitoring livestock.

The fund will be split across two strands. The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund will focus on smaller grants for equipment from a set list, including electronic seeders and chemical-free disinfection systems.

Secondly, the Farming Transformation Fund will cover more substantial technology, with the potential to transform farming business performance.

This strand will focus initially on water management with grants available to improve water use on farms for things like crop irrigation and constructing on-farm reservoirs.

Farming minister Victoria Prentis said the new investment fund would help farmers to invest in technology, in turn boosting productivity and delivering environmental benefits.

“Investing in new technology and equipment on farm has a real impact on productivity and yields, as well as a benefit for the environment as we build on the historic commitments of COP26,” she added.

Responding to the launch of the schemes, the NFU said the government had 'clearly recognised' the benefits of investing in efficient food production.

However, the union added the application windows for both schemes were tight and the current disruption to supply chains could lead to delays.

“It’s vital that farmers make their applications as quickly as possible," vice president Tom Bradshaw said, "and, if accepted, give themselves as much time as possible to make the necessary arrangements.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has also encouraged farmers, land managers and foresters to apply to the funds as soon as possible.

The rural group's president, Mark Tufnell said: “We are pleased that government is beginning to move more quickly in publishing details of new funding schemes.

"Funding will initially be available for water management projects and to support the purchase of a wide variety of modern equipment - but the timescales offered by Defra to register interest are exceptionally tight."

Eligible applicants involved in the production or processing of agricultural, horticultural or forestry products, who are based in England, can apply for a grant.

The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund will provide grants between £2k and £25k to buy items from a set list of equipment and technology. The application deadline is 7 January 2022.

The Farming Transformation Fund, based on the Countryside Productivity Large Grant scheme, will provide grants between £35k and £500k. This closes on 12 January 2022.