£12.5m funding available for ag automation and robotics

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Defra is providing funding of £12.5m in England to support innovations that will help reduce labour, improve productivity and create more sustainable farming practices.

Individual applicants can be awarded grants of between £500,000 and £1.5m.

Applications will open on 9 January 2023 and close on 15 March 2023 for UK-registered businesses.

To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate how their project will benefit English farmers or growers, and all work must be carried out in the UK.

The size of the grant an applicant can claim varies depending on the size of the business and type of project.

Large businesses carrying out feasibility or industrial research projects can claim up to 50% of project costs, while small businesses can claim up to 70%.

For experimental development projects claims of 25-45% can be made depending on the size of the business.

Successful projects will need to start by 1 September 2023 and be completed by 31 August 2025 for 24-month projects, or 31 August 2026 for 36-month projects.

Initiatives supported in previous rounds of this grant include automated vegetable harvesters and fruit-scouting robots.

The funding is being provided in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as the third round of the Farming Futures Research and Development Fund. This forms part of Defra’s wider £270m Farming Innovation Programme.

Defra farming minister Mark Spencer said: “This is an exciting opportunity for farmers and growers to come together with businesses and researchers to invent ingenious solutions to the problems our agriculture and horticulture sectors face.

“Automation and robotics has huge potential to improve productivity and sustainability. By supporting some of the most promising ideas to get off the ground, we are investing in a successful agriculture and horticulture industry for generations to come.”

SFI application costs

Consultant Andersons has been asked by Defra to conduct an urgent analysis of the costs of entering the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).

Defra is aiming to receive responses from farm businesses before the new year, when a further announcement about the future of the SFI is due to be made.

A payment of £100 will be made to 15 farms in return for a 30-minute interview on the topic.

To apply, contact Richard King at rking@theandersonscentre.co.uk with your name, farm location, farm size and main enterprises.

£12.5m funding available for ag automation and robotics