Defra Secretary announces £45 million for farming innovation

Drone flying across the sky

In his first major speech as Defra Secretary, Steve Barclay has outlined £45 million worth of funding, split between the Farming Investment Fund and Farming Innovation programme.

Mr Barclay outlined the following pledges:

  • £30 million under the second round of the Improving Farming Productivity grant, providing capital grants of £15,000/£25,000 - £500,000 towards robotic, automatic equipment and solar. More information on this is expected in December.
  • £8 million under the third round of the Large R&D Partnership – due to launch on 15 January 2024.
  • £850,000 through the Research Starter Round 4 competition – due to open in December 2023 and close in February 2024.
  • Individual grants of up to £100,000 on offer from a total £5 million under the third round of the NEIRF (Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund)

Innovation ‘central’ to future of farming

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw said: “Innovation and new technology have always been central to the progress of British farming, and Defra’s announcement will further support our farmers as they continue to face ever-increasing financial pressures.

“Investing in farming businesses is key; purchasing equipment and technology to increase productivity and improve animal health and welfare on farm and meeting environmental objectives such as the installation of solar panels, as part of our ambition to reach net zero by 2040.”

Defra’s announcement will further support our farmers as they continue to face ever-increasing financial pressures.

NFU Deputy President Tom Bradshaw

The Farming Investment Fund element was first announced back on Back British Farming Day, where former Defra Secretary Thérèse Coffey revealed that round 2 of the Improving Farm Productivity grant would have £15 million for robotics and automation and a new fund of £15 million for solar. This theme came out of the early summer Farm to Fork Summit.

For the first time, the revised grant offer will also fund grants of between £15,000 and £100,000 towards solar equipment which can be fitted on rooftops and float on irrigation reservoirs.

Following NFU lobbying, the minimum grant threshold for these large grants has been lowered from £25,000 to £15,000.

Round 4 of the Research Starter competition, designed to support farmers prepare nature projects that will help attract investment in the private sector, and round 3 of the large R&D partnership project, a competition aimed at boosting research and experimental development projects, fall under the (FIP) Farming Innovation Programme.

The FIP grants will also include the Accelerating Development of Practices and Technologies fund, due to launch in 2024, where businesses will be able to apply for a share of £44 million to test and trial new technology and techniques on farms.

The NFU has worked with Defra for further funding opportunities for its members in this area for many years and it is vital that investment leads to all farmers and growers being supported to get involved at some level with R&D.

“As ever, it’s important that our members review the information on the grants carefully when it becomes available and make applications where they work for their businesses,” the NFU’s Deputy President added.

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