Find out about applying for Farming Investment Fund schemes

An aerial view of farmland, farm buildings, harvested fields and a river running through the fields.

The government launched its first grant schemes under the Farming Investment Fund in November 2021, aimed at helping the farming industry to make productivity improvements. Our expert advisers take a look at where we are at this time.

These competitive productivity grants are split into small grants (Farming Equipment and Technology Fund) and large grants.

So far these schemes have been very popular and have in the main been oversubscribed, with farmers who have previously not engaged with these types of grants engaging for the first time. This has meant that lower scoring applications, or weaker projects, have not been taken forward by the RPA to either allow a claim or a full application.

The NFU continues to work closely with Defra and the RPA on the development of these schemes.

Farming Equipment and Technology Fund 2024 offer

Farming Equipment and Technology Fund items will help improve:

  • farm productivity
  • the environment
  • animal health and welfare
  • management of slurry.

2024 offer:

Scheme information published

20 February 2024

Current application windows (there will be up to three windows in 2024)

  • Productivity application window: 6 March – 17 April (midday)
  • Slurry application window: 6 March – 17 April (midday)
  • Animal health and welfare window: 20 March – 1 May (midday)

What does it cover?

There are 3 themes to the grant, each with an online application portal and different timelines:

  • Improving productivity – 85 items
  • Slurry management – 17 items
  • Animal health and welfare – 130 items

Applicants are able to apply to any theme or all three, for items that best suit their business.

There is an increased budget for productivity of £70 million, £10.5 million for slurry and around £20 million for animal health and welfare.

The RPA / Defra are planning three application windows for each grant theme in 2024 (grant budget split evenly across them). You can only accept one grant funding agreement for each grant in 2024. So, if one is accepted, you cannot apply again for the same grant in 2024 (if accepted during window 1, you cannot apply during later windows).

If your application falls below the scoring threshold and is unsuccessful for an application window, the RPA will reject it, but you would be able to apply again in a future application window.

The FETF 2024 grant offer is competitive, and therefore not everyone who applies will be successful, however, there will be three application windows for 2024, meaning there will be three opportunities to apply.

The 2024 offer is open to farmers, contractors, and foresters in England. Grants for items on the Animal Health and Welfare list are available to farmers or contractors in the following sectors:

  • beef cattle
  • dairy cattle
  • sheep
  • pigs
  • laying hens (including rearing and breeding farms) 
  • broilers (including rearing and breeding farms) 

Each theme contains separate lists for equipment tailored to that particular theme, with lists for arable, forestry and horticulture within the improving productivity theme, while the animal health and welfare theme has lists broken down into the key sectors, including sheep, poultry, pigs and cattle.

The FETF 2024 grants are for a minimum of £1,000 and a maximum of £25,000 for the animal health and welfare theme, and £50,000 for the productivity and slurry theme. If you want to apply for a grant over £25,000 you will need to provide further information to the RPA.

The minimum and maximum grant levels apply to 2024 only. In future, there may be a cap added for the total grant that can be claimed over more than one year.

Grant funding is between 50-60% depending upon the theme applied for, and the grant amount listed against each item is the amount the RPA will pay you based on their calculations for market averages for each equipment piece or if you obtain a lower price for the item, the grant contribution will be based on that lower figure.

The responsibility is on the applicant to fund the remaining cost of an item. Items must be paid in full before a grant claim can be made.

You can find more information on our Farming Equipment and Technology Fund page. This includes information for those that have been successful with their initial application and making a claim.

Find out more about the items available within the 2024 offer under each theme:

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Improving Farm Productivity grant

Round 2

Scheme information published
12 December 2023

Online checker opens:
25 January 2024

Online checker closes:

11.59pm 21 March 2024

This competitive grant will be split along two themes:

  • the first is robotics and automation
  • the second will focus on solar energy.

Each theme has a dedicated £15 million attached to it.

Each theme will require a separate application.

This grant aims to help farms reduce fossil fuel use, improve their energy resilience, and accelerate progress towards net zero. To this end, equipment relying on electric or renewable energy will be prioritised over similar equipment relying on fossil fuels. Biofuels are considered renewable for this grant, meaning they will be treated preferably.

Robotics and Automation theme

The first theme focuses on robotics and automation. Government guidance helpfully outlines what it defines as both robotic and automatic equipment, listing the specific functions required to carry out. The minimum requirement for a grant covering any equipment under this theme is £25,000, while the maximum claim amount is £500,000 per applicant business. Key is to understand what is considered eligible investments.

Solar theme

The second theme is for solar PV equipment, with a minimum of £15,000 available to fund solar PV panels, batteries, inverters, grid connections and more. The maximum claim amount available per applicant business is £100,000. 

It is worth noting, however, that the maximum claim amount across both themes, if applied, remains £500,000. Where a business claims on both themes, their maximum claim remains capped at £500,000, of which up to £100,000 can be allocated to the solar power theme. There will be two applications required, one for each theme.

Eligible costs include the upgrading of the electricity supply to the holding, but only to the scale of power needed to support the project. For example, where 100kW is needed, and a holding upgrades its supply to 200kW, only half of the upgrade costs will be covered by the grant. There will need to be clear, detailed evidence outlining the power requirements of the project in full application to support this.

Capital grants will be made available at an intervention rate of 25% for the solar theme, and 50% for the robotics and automation theme. Defra is now in the process of agreeing more of the finer details with the online checker now open.

The funding for this grant has been increased from the original budget of £30 million to £50 million. The increase from £30 million (£15 million for automation and robotics and £15 million for rooftop solar) to £50 million is expected to be split across £25 million for automation and robotics and £25 million for rooftop solar.

Further information

The key is understanding what is in scope (there are detailed specifications given) and what is not eligible; reading the guidance is key for both themes.

Our NFU experts have summarised the details of the scheme. Visit: Improving Farm Productivity grant – round 2.

More information, including more specific details of the eligibility criteria for certain items, can be found at: GOV.UK | About the Improving Farm Productivity grant Round 2, who can apply and what the grant can pay for.

Application process

Reading the guidance first will help you ahead of making your initial application window as it sets out what you need to consider, what information you will need to have in order to make an application. Please also read what may be required if you are shortlisted to advance your initial application to a full application and what should be avoided until such time as a grant funding agreement has been offered to you post assessment of a full application.  

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Round 1

This was offered in 2021 and 2022 with full applications needing to be submitted by 31 January 2023.

This scheme has now closed to new applications, but claims in the system are working their way through the RPA process.

What did it cover?
The competitive Improving Farm Productivity grant was to improve farm productivity through robotic (for example automated weeding / voluntary milking systems / feeding systems) or automation (for example advanced ventilation systems) and also mild slurry acidification treatment support.

Grant contributions range from £35,000 to £500,000 with a 40% intervention rate.

Find out more by visiting our Improving Farm Productivity round 1 page.

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Slurry Infrastructure grant 

Round 2

Scheme information published

12 October 2023

Initial outline application period (Stage 1)

Closed on 17 January 2024

Deadline for location and design assessment (Stage 2)

30 September 2024

Deadline for full application (Stage 3)

11.59pm 27 June 2025

A third round is expected to be launched in 2024.

A number of important changes have been made for round 2:

  • Pig farmers will be able to apply for a grant to cover up to 8 months’ worth of storage rather than 6 months’ worth, while cattle farmers will again be able to apply for 6 months’ worth.
  • All farmers can apply for a grant towards the cost of a slurry separator as part of their wider application, though the resulting reduction in slurry cannot be used to justify a lower storage requirement.
  • Those with stores which are already fit-for-purpose can apply for a grant towards the cost of an impermeable cover only, but the minimum grant threshold of £25,000 still applies.
  • In-situ cast concrete stores will now be available as an alternative to circular and panels stores, lagoons, and large volume supported bags, allowing stores to be built more easily in hard-to-access locations.
  • There will be an option for landlords to underwrite grant funding agreements, which would see them take over agreements if the tenant does not complete the project.

Defra understands that some farmers who applied for round 1 may want to amend their application to take advantage of the revised offer. The RPA is contacting round 1 applicants with a time-limited opportunity to update their application if they want to include these changes in their project, without having to reapply.

The RPA and Defra made decisions on initial applications received by 17 January 2024 and have now communicated these to applicants. Those shortlisted now need to work on the design and location checklist and send to the RPA by 30 September 2024.

Defra does not currently plan to make any further changes to the offer for round 3.

For more information on round 2, visit: Slurry Infrastructure grant – round 2.

Round 1

Scheme information published
23 November 2022

Initial outline application period closed
31 January 2023

Decisions on initial outline applications
Decisions communicated by late March

Full application deadline for successful applicants
28 June 2024

What did it cover?
The Slurry Infrastructure grant helps dairy, beef, pig farmers in England invest in future-proofed slurry infrastructure and nutrient management systems with an aim to help reducing water and air pollution risk from slurry.

These first-year grants were aimed at covered slurry store construction projects, to enable farmers to get to six months storage capacity based on existing livestock numbers (meaning the typical number of animals you kept on the farm over the last year).

Defra is grant-funding a range of storage types and situations which farmers can choose from a list which needs to meet regulatory and building standards. It will help replace, build new or expand existing slurry stores to provide six months' storage.

Grant-funded projects will need to maintain six months' storage capacity for all animals on the holding for the duration of the grant funding agreement, irrespective of future livestock numbers. This means you’ll need to make appropriate upgrades to your storage and slurry management if you increase your herd size in the future.

What happened since 31 January 2023?

It is a competitive fund. The RPA prioritised projects which had the greatest environmental benefit, based on areas that need urgent action to:

  • reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture
  • restore natural habitats

What happened since the end of March 2023?

Defra started contacting successful applicants via letter to inform them that they will now need to prepare a full application for Defra to consider. These include all eligible applicants from the priority areas outlined by Defra, as well as those with projects scoring highly in both water and air quality improvements.

Successful applicants now need to go through EA’s location and design check and secure planning permission for their project as well as analysing their financial viability, if they have not already done so. The deadline for the full application, including these two elements, will be 28 June 2024.

Defra also changed the way it manages the standard cost funding for these grants. If your total amount for the project is less than what was calculated initially, then Defra will maintain their matched funding of 50%, of the actual total cost.

When Round 2 was announced, those still to progress their Round 1 applications were offered to vary their projects to take account of the revised Round 2 offer.

You can find out more by visiting: Slurry Infrastructure grant | NFUonline

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Calf Housing for Health and Welfare grant

The online eligibility checker and initial application window has now closed for new applications.

Latest news

Decisions for this grant for those who were successful and those who were not, were communicated to applicants in early January 2024. The majority for this round were successful. The next step complete the ambient environment assessment which will need to be worked through by the 30 April 2024. Full applications will need to be submitted by 30 April 2025.

Defra published guidance on this £10 million Infrastructure grant to fund cattle housing for farmers in 2023. The RPA online checker has now closed for those interested in applying. The process was put in place to help you determine whether you were eligible and whether your proposal met the aims of the scheme. It is therefore crucial to read the current guidance on the scheme to ensure your proposal has the best chance of succeeding. 

This new grant can contribute up to 40% of the cost of cattle housing. Aimed at the dairy and beef sectors, the grant aims to improve the health and welfare of calves (up to 6 months old) by providing a good ambient environment as well as facilitating social contact through group or paired housing.

The grant can contribute to calf housing which:

  • provides good ventilation and protects calves from draughts
  • protects calves from getting too hot or too cold
  • has solid floors with adequate drainage and straw bedding
  • houses calves in pairs or groups
  • provides calf enrichment
  • meets environmental objectives, such as installation of solar panels.

This was a competitive grant awarded by the RPA. It focused on the projects which have the largest beneficial impact on animal health and welfare, however, it will also considered innovation and productivity, as well as environmental incomes.

The grant's purpose was to enable farmers in England to access funding, ranging from £15,000 to £500,000, to co-finance cattle infrastructure projects, prioritising new and upgraded calf housing which will improve conditions for livestock and help to boost farmers’ productivity and profitability.

Defra will be extending this infrastructure grant to other livestock sectors, with forthcoming funding available for pig and poultry farmers.

You can find out more by visiting: Calf Housing for Health and Welfare grant

NFU Energy Help

If you’re considering solar PV panels as part of your project, NFU Energy offers access to leading renewable energy installers, finance and insurance. The team can support you at every stage of your renewables journey, from installer introductions to providing ongoing assistance to ensure everything happens smoothly. Learn more at: NFU Energy | Renewable energy solutions 

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Small Abattoir Fund

Initial guidance published: 13 December 2023

Application deadline: 30 September 2024.

Smaller abattoirs can now access a share of £4 million made available to support them and maintain our smaller abattoir networks. Funding will be available from between £2,000 to £60,000 per business. This will be paid at a 40% intervention rate.

An item costing £10,000 would, therefore, receive £4,000 in grant funding, with the abattoir business financing the remaining £6,000 for the item. Given the irregularity of cash flows for these businesses, the RPA will allow three applications throughout the application window to claim a maximum of £60,000 to ensure maximum support is available to smaller abattoirs.  

The unique nature of individual abattoirs, serving their local producers, means that the RPA will also consider additional investments on items not explicitly listed under the scheme guidance.

Applicants considering this will be required to provide evidence that the investment aligns with at least one of the fund’s aims, objectives and eligibility criteria.

There is £4m funding for this fund. The funding is designed to upgrade existing smaller abattoirs, not necessarily to establish new ones and not directly be connected to NFU members unless they operate one.

More information is available at: GOV.UK | Introducing the small abattoir fund.

The deadline for this fund will be 30 September 2024.


 

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Water management grant: Rounds 1 and 2

Round 2

Initial outline application window opened

19 April 2023

Initial outline application window closed

11:59 12 July 2023

Full applications deadline for successful applicants 

11:59 on 31 October 2024

This scheme has now closed to new applications, but claims in the system are working their way through the RPA process.

This round of the grant scheme was open to arable and horticultural businesses which were either already growing, or intending to grow, either irrigated food crops, ornamentals or forestry nurseries.

Applicants had until 12 July 2023 to submit an initial application. Upon assessment by the RPA, those who are selected to progress will be required to submit a complete a full application by 31 October 2024. You must include abstraction licences and planning permission confirmation in your application for Round 2.

The grant can go toward capital items to improve on farm productivity by mitigating water loss and securing water for irrigation use. These can include:

  • Modifying existing water application equipment to more efficient models (moving from rain guns to trickle or boom application).
  • Securing water access with a reduced environmental impact (such as by reservoir construction, rainfall harvesting or winter abstraction rather than summer abstraction).
  • Improving business resilience and prosperity (for example, using new irrigation systems and newly irrigated areas to increase productivity or introduce high value crops and/or moving away from fossil fuel powered equipment)
  • Encouraging collaboration for water storage and irrigation of crops (for example supplying water to neighbouring farmers).

For a full list of available equipment, visit: GOV.UK | About the Water Management Grant Round 2

The grant range will be between £35,000 and £500,000 per applicant business and will cover up to 40% of the cost of eligible items.

Decisions were made in August 2023 on the initial applications received by the RPA, successful initial applicant has have until 23:59 on 31 October 2024 to put in their full application.

You can find out more by visiting our guide to the Water Management Grant page.

Round 1

Launched
16 November 2021

Initial outline application window closed
12 January 2022

Full applications deadline for successful applicants

  • Tranche 1: 30 June 2022 for those that did not request an extension with planning and abstraction licences in place by 31 December 2022.
  • Tranche 1: 30 September 2022 for those that did request an extension with planning and abstraction licences in place by 31 March 2023, and latterly 31 May 2023 for some cases.
  • Tranche 2: 30 November 2022 with planning and abstraction licences in place by 31 May 2023.

What did it cover?
The competitive FTF for water management grant offered grants to improve farm productivity through more efficient use of water for irrigation / secure water supplies for crop irrigation by the construction of on-farm reservoirs and related equipment.

Grant contribution range from £35,000 to £500,000 with a 40% intervention rate.

What has happened since 12 January 2022?
As a reminder, there was a two-stage application process with an online eligibility and desirability scoring checker that assessed initial applications. This closed in January 2022, though supporting permissions and licences could be submitted where agreed up to 31 May 2023. 

The RPA has since made three decisions on submitted initial applications:

  1. Strong scoring projects have been invited to progress with a full application.
  2. Some lower scoring projects were initially put on hold but have since been invited to put in a full application, as set out above in the form of Tranche 2.
  3. The weakest projects have been turned down.

After the deadlines set out above, the RPA will assess the full applications and decide on which will be offered grant funding. The decisions are said to be made within 60 days of this deadline.

Critical is the need to have planning permission/abstraction licences in place. If there are delays getting planning permission or abstraction licenses, speak to the RPA about whether an extension is possible. 

You can find out more by visiting our guide to the Water Management Grant page.

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Adding Value grant

Scheme information published
24 May 2022

Initial outline application closed
21 July 2022

Full application deadline for successful applicants
31 January 2024

This scheme has now closed for all applications.

What did it cover?
The Adding Value grant scheme was set up to award capital grants of between £25,000 and £300,000 to farmers and growers to support their work processing, diversifying, and adding value to their agricultural and horticultural products.

It is a competitive fund. The RPA will award funding to the strongest applications.

You can find out more by visiting our Adding Value grant page.

What has happened since 21 July 2022? 
As a reminder, there was a two-stage application process with an online eligibility and desirability scoring checker that assessed initial applications. This closed on 21 July 2022.

The RPA has assessed the initial applications received. At this point we expect that:

  • the strongest scoring projects will have been invited to progress with a full application
  • lower scoring projects may be put on hold in case funds become available later if projects initially asked to progress drop out of the process
  • the weakest projects will be turned down.

On 17 August 2022, the RPA announced that applicants who have been invited to submit a full application for this grant could now go ahead with their submission. If you have been invited to submit a full application, the deadline for submitting your full application form and supporting evidence was 31 January 2024.

The RPA will assess the full applications and decide which will be offered grant funding as they are received. The decisions are said to be made within 60 days of this deadline.  

The RPA cannot assess full applications or commit funds to projects that are waiting on planning permission to proceed. In this instance, you will need to send a copy of the planning permission approval together with your full application submission.

You can find out more by visiting our Adding Value grant page.

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What else is in the pipeline?

Below you can find information on what we expect to see in the coming months, the picture is always evolving as well as what is covered under each funding offer, it is therefore key to keep an eye on the latest news from the NFU, Defra and the RPA.

Large grants

Following the Defra Secretary of State's announcement at the Oxford Farming Conference, and the Prime Minister's address at NFU Conference, we've summarised the additional grants planned for 2024:

£116m – large and small grants – The Slurry Infrastructure grant

This grant is used to replace, build additional, expand or cover existing slurry stores to reach the grant storage requirements. This covers an increased grant offer for 2024 as well as £10.5 million budget made available via the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund 2024 offer.

£91m – large and small grants – Animal Health and Welfare 

This funding is to support farmers with the costs of items designed to improve the health and welfare of livestock.

This covers the current budget of £10 million for Calf Housing of AH&W (Animal Health and Welfare), and forthcoming other large grants for Laying Hens for AH&W and Adult Cattle for AH&W due to launch in 2024.

This budget also includes the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund 2024 AH&W theme offer.

£15m – large grants – Adding Value Grant

The Adding Value Grant is for farmers who want to expand their farm operations into processing, packing, and retailing.

Currently Defra is considering the level of demand for round 1, but it is hopeful there will be a further round to follow.

£15m – large grants – Water Management Grants

The Water Management Grants are for projects such as on-farm reservoirs and works to improve irrigation.

This funding is for a round 3, with an increase from the £10 million from rounds 1 and 2. 

NFU Mutual Agri-Tech report

If you're thinking about investing in new equipment or technology, NFU Mutual's Agri-Tech Report provides information and examples to help you make the right decision for your business. 

Visit the NFU Mutual website to find out more and download the report: Agri-Tech: the technological revolution

This page was first published on 06 December 2023. It was updated on 20 March 2024.


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