Farming Futures: automation and robotics
UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £12.5m across 2 strands, to develop innovative solutions for automation and robotics in agriculture/horticulture.
For industrial research, project costs must be £500k-£1m and up to 70% of costs can be covered. For experimental development, costs must be £750k-£1.5m and up to 45% of costs can be covered.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) will invest up to £12.5 million in innovation projects. This funding is part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme, which is delivered in partnership with UKRI’s Transforming Food Production Challenge.
The aim of this competition is to fund collaborative development projects with ambitious solutions for robotics and automation in agriculture and horticulture. Your proposal must be able to demonstrate how the project will benefit farmers or growers in England.
This competition is split into 2 strands:
- Strand 1 – Farming Futures: automation and robotics industrial research; accelerating collaborative R&D with the UK’s world-leading research base, agri-tech businesses, SMEs and the UK agricultural sector to develop innovations in agriculture and horticulture
- Strand 2 – Farming Futures: automation and robotics experimental development; accelerating the deployment and uptake of innovation for robotics and automation in agriculture and horticulture that is almost at commercial stage
It is your responsibility to ensure you submit your application to the correct strand for your project. You will not be able to transfer your application and it will not be sent for assessment if it is out of scope.
If you are unsure which strand to apply to, the Innovate UK KTN Agrifood team will be able to advise you.
Strand 1: Industrial Research Projects
- Accelerating collaborative R&D with the UK’s world-leading research base, AgriTech businesses, SMEs and the UK agricultural sector to develop innovations in agriculture and horticulture
- Total costs of £500k – £1m
- Duration: 36 to 48 months
Strand 2: Experimental Development
- Accelerating the deployment and uptake of innovation for robotics and automation in agriculture and horticulture that is almost at commercial stage
- Total costs of £750k – £1.5m
- Duration: 24 to 36 months
For both strands, you must be able to demonstrate how the project will benefit farmers or growers in England, and you must carry out all project work in the UK, and intend to exploit the results from or in the UK.
To lead a project in either strand, your organisation must:
- be a UK registered business of any size
- collaborate with other eligible UK organisations
A business can only lead on one application in each strand of this competition. A business can also be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications in each of the 2 strands of the competition. If an organisation or business is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications across both strands of the competition.
If your project has farmers or growers requesting grant funding, a minimum of 50% of the total grant amount requested by those organisations must come from farmers or growers geographically based in England.
The aim of this competition is to fund collaborative projects with ambitious solutions for robotics and automation in agriculture and horticulture by:
- supporting specific recommendation for automation innovation funding from recent Defra reviews including the Automation in Horticulture Review (specifically recommendations 2 and 3) and the Government Food Strategy
- addressing key issues affecting the sector, where automation and robotics can mitigate challenges in for example, labour availability or input costs through better resource use and efficiency
In strand 1 for industrial research, you must accelerate collaborative R&D to develop innovations. In strand 2 for experimental development, you must accelerate the deployment and uptake of innovation that is almost at commercial stage.
The innovative technologies in your proposal must focus on one or more of the following:
- robotic and automated machines and systems for static or mobile operation
- imaging, sensing, and monitoring devices and systems to collect and store data and associated systems to process data for management records and to drive management decisions and automated actions
- systems for on-farm processing and packing operations
Your project must seek to significantly improve:
- sustainability and environmental impact of farming
- progression towards net zero emissions
- longer term resilience
You must be able to demonstrate how the solution and output will benefit farmers or growers in England.
Your project must:
- demonstrate environmental benefits and societal impact
- include clear project deliverables for measuring the sustainability of your solutions, and how they are preventing negative impact upon the sector
- ensure your solutions are closely aligned with industry priorities to deliver business-orientated and transformative opportunities
- consider how it will encourage dissemination and knowledge exchange to the wider sector
Projects must focus on one or more of the following agriculture production sectors:
- Broadacre: cereals, root crops, grassland
- Horticulture: field based and specialist growers
- Fruit: top fruit, stone fruit and soft fruit
- Protected cropping: glass and polytunnel systems
- Controlled Environment and Vertical Farming Systems
Briefing events and support
Innovate UK KTN will be holding a briefing and collaboration webinar on 18th January 2023. The competition briefing will run 10am-noon, and a session on finding collaboration partners from 1.30pm-3.30pm.
For any further enquiries, or for help to find a collaboration partner, contact Innovate UK KTN’s Agrifood team.