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Government gives £24m boost to agricultural tech

Nine agricultural technology projects are receiving government funding to create more efficient food production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The government has launched a £24m funding package for a range of agricultural technology projects aimed to cut costs and improve food production, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The nine projects receiving funding range from using big data, artificial intelligence and robotics to different areas of farming across the UK.

This includes a project run by a consortium in Nottingham, called React-First, which aims to create clean and sustainable food for poultry and fish, while also achieving a 75% reduction in carbon footprint. The project is led by Deep Branch Technology and aims to use technology to turn carbon dioxide from the nearby power station into animal food.

The project, which will get £2m in funding, will also work with Sainsbury’s and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre to integrate into the fish and poultry supply chain.

Another project, receiving £2.5m, aims to perform the largest known global demonstration of robotics and autonomous technology on a farm. The project is led by Saga Robotics and will see robots assist farmers performing intensive physical tasks such as fruit picking and packing, and treating crops to reduce pests and diseases.

Science minister Amanda Solloway said the projects are incredible and “represent the future of farming”. 

“Working with the best of British science, we are turning our most creative ideas into pioneering projects that will accelerate our transition to net zero food production, boost jobs and drive forward the UK’s economic recovery,” she said.

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In London, a project led by vertical farming business InFarm, will receive more than £3m to develop a new farming system to grow a wider range of fruit and vegetables, by growing them in vertically stacked levels rather than on a single level surface. It will use gas sensors and monitoring cameras to observe growth patterns of the crops.

Farming minister Victoria Prentis said the investment in “these outstanding ideas” will help “tackle the faming industry’s greatest challenges, from achieving net zero emissions to investing in sustainable alternative protein for animal feed”. 

“Farming has never before been at the centre of such exciting and forward looking innovations,” she said. 

In Bath, the government has awarded £1.7m to a project aiming to provide precision technology to dairy farmers, allowing them to get access to real-time data to ensure their farms are productive and environmentally friendly. This will be achieved using wearable devices on cows that track their behaviour and nutrition.

The funding for the projects comes from two different pots of money: the Future Food Production Systems competition and the Science and Technology into Practice Demonstration competition. Both are part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s challenge on transforming food production, aiming for net zero emissions by 2040.

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