Ingenious innovations to help transform UK farming
Posted on 28/06/2019
Science Minister Chris Skidmore has announced the first 31 projects to benefit from the government’s dedicated Transforming Food Production Challenge, a £90 million Industrial Strategy fund to help businesses, researchers and industry to transform farming and meet the needs of a growing population.
This investment in the latest technological developments is a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy, and commitment to boost R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
It will also contribute towards providing greener, cleaner processes for the agricultural sector, helping towards the government’s commitment to a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Projects will benefit from a share of £22.4million to develop their innovative projects, with industry partners contributing a further £8.8million. They include:
- Rootwave, in Warwickshire, who will use a £690,000 grant to use electricity instead of chemicals to kill weeds via the roots avoiding damage to crops.
- Tuberscan, in Lincolnshire, who 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, who will use a £233,000 grant in its project 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.
- aiScope, a project based in Sheffield, who 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.
Science Minister Chris Skidmore said:
“The UK is a global leader in technological innovation, as well as being the first major economy to introduce plans for a legally binding target to reach net zero emissions and end the UK’s contribution to global warming entirely by 2050.
“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.”
Farming Minister Robert Goodwill said:
“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.
“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.”
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said:
“It is predicted that 60 percent more food will be needed worldwide by 2050 to feed the increasing global population. To do this we need to produce food in more resilient, sustainable and efficient ways. This means reducing emissions and pollution, minimising waste and improving our soil.
“The projects announced today will help to address this challenge, delivering benefits for consumers through innovation in the food economy.”