Horticulture funding opportunities for UK growers

Posted on: 04/09/2023

Horticulture is a diverse and wide-ranging sector. It spans a vast range of crops, estimated to be more than 350 species, although many of these are ornamental crops. In broad brush terms horticultural food production encompasses salads, herbs, vegetables, mushrooms, soft fruit and tree fruit.

Horticulture comes with a specific set of challenges that can often be opportunities for innovation. Let’s take a look at these challenges and funding competitions to develop innovative ideas.

Challenges facing horticulture farmers

It’s a different landscape to agriculture where farmers often own the land they farm and rotate a narrower range of crops and livestock. Horticultural growers often rent land for a season or two, which can bring challenges and additional costs for production. They also produce crops in several different ways: in fields, orchards, glasshouses, polytunnels, and in vertical growing systems.

Growers must compete to secure retail contracts and be canny when it comes to developing ways to produce safe and high-quality food for the UK. They must deal with unpredictable weather, changes in regulation for crop protection products, managing dwindling labour forces and competition from imports.

Horticultural growers, by their very nature are an innovative bunch, necessitated by dealing with the challenges that come with the complexity described above. However, in the last three to four years there has been additional tests to overcome. The UK’s exit from the European market, followed by Covid 19, and more recently, the war in Ukraine. For growers, this had devastating effects on the availability of migrant labour and reduced access to EU farming subsidies. They had to step production up to feed a population that was now only cooking at home. They’ve also had to deal with rising prices for crop inputs, particularly for fertilisers. The UK experiencing difficult economic times and households struggling to heat their homes and feed themselves is now added onto these challenges.

Funding to fast-track your horticulture innovation

Defra is supporting UK farmers, growers and foresters by providing via the 25 Year Environment Plan and the Agricultural Transition Plan (2021-24). The latter provides ways for farmers, growers and foresters to access funding for innovations that benefit the environment, improve productivity and support the government in achieving their net zero ambitions.

Defra is currently partnering with Innovate UK to deliver the Farming Innovation Programme.The programme will provide £270m of funding to:

  • Help farmers, growers and foresters increase productivity, sustainability and resilience
  • Reduce the environmental impact of agriculture and horticulture
  • Apply agricultural research to provide real benefits for farmers, growers and foresters
  • Use science to develop solutions for the practical challenges in agriculture and horticulture

The programme offers several routes for funding whether you are a farmer, business or researcher. The programme includes several competitions and some of them are currently in their third round.

You can read about 50 winning projects within the Farming Innovation Programme spanning Climate Smart farming, Sustainable Proteins production and crop protection.

This autumn sees two further competitions opening.

  • If you are interested in developing a new product or service
    The Small R&D Partnership (round 3) funding competition opened on the 14th August 2023. You must be a UK registered business to lead a project in this competition and collaborate with others. There is a total of £9.8m available, with individual projects able to have total project costs of between £1m and £3m. Application deadline: 25th October 2023.
  • If your idea is at an earlier stage in its development
    The Feasibility Studies (round 3) funding competition opens on the 18th September 2023. UK registered businesses can apply to check whether their early-stage idea is likely to be successful further down the development line. Total project costs must be between £200,000 and £500,000 and can last up to 2 years.
    Application deadline: 15th November 2023

Whether you are involved directly in horticulture or are working on a technology that could be applied in horticulture, we can support you.

Book a call here with our horticulture experts Cathryn Lambourne and Pedro Carvalho.

We’ll be happy to discuss ways that we can support you, including what is involved in each funding competition, finding partners for your consortium and helping you to structure a strong application.

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