£16 million boost for agricultural innovators

Over 70 businesses and universities from across the UK will share £16 million from government and industry to develop 25 innovative business ideas and boost UK agriculture.

The 25 projects, worth £16 million with £9.8 million from government and £6.2 million from industry, form the third round of funding to be distributed through the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst, announced as part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies.

The Agri-Tech Catalyst, run by Innovate UK and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), supports collaborative research between scientists and businesses to springboard projects from the lab to the market place – speeding up the time before the farmer and public benefit.

Innovations in this round include the ‘Sunshine Egg’ – a project to help reduce vitamin D deficiency in humans by enriching naturally-laid chicken eggs with higher levels of the vitamin via chicken feed, and developing 3D camera technology to identify when broccoli is ready for harvesting – a key step towards the development of a fully automatic robotic harvesting system for the vegetable which will significantly reduce production costs.

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities said:

With a growing population and more extreme climate, providing a sufficient and healthy food supply has become more important than ever, as has the need to seek out innovations of doing so.

The Agri-Tech Catalyst is helping businesses and researchers by providing valuable finance to take innovations from any sector or discipline all the way from concept to commercialisation.

Science and Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said:

Innovation in food and farming is crucial in supporting us to grow the economy and improve the environment. This new investment will help take ideas from the lab to the farmer’s field, further developing our high-tech, highly-skilled agri-food sector.

It is great that we can support innovative projects that are tackling such a wide range of challenges – from improved breeding of pigs and poultry to producing better wheat for cake and biscuit makers. Projects like these are essential to the competitiveness of our farmers and food producers and form a key part of our long-term economic plan.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

Funding technology to help protect farmers’ crops from extreme weather and increase their yields will ensure people in developing countries have a stable and reliable supply of food.

This will not only address malnutrition by allowing people to feed their families, but also enable them to sell their produce, ending aid dependency through growth and jobs.

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC Chief Executive, said:

Agriculture technologies have the potential to significantly transform our ability to provide affordable, accessible nutritious food against the challenges of climate change and the increasing population. These investments announced today will accelerate the translation of research into practical solutions which will benefit farmers and consumers.

Ian Meikle, Head of Agriculture and Food at Innovate UK said:

The Agri-Tech Strategy aims to make the UK a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability. The funding decisions announced today are expert-led and evidence-based, which support great ideas that address challenges of the future in food and farming. With business, research and government working together, these investments can unlock potential and deliver major benefits for society and the economy.

Other winners from this round include developing environmentally-friendly cooling and heating to promote enhanced living conditions for healthier chickens and adapting the use of satellite imagery to identify the right time for farmers to tend to their crops.

Businesses and researchers with ideas that have the potential to solve global agricultural challenges can apply for the fourth round of Agri-Tech Catalyst funding.

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