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£4M for Agricultural Innovation

4M for Agricultural Innovation - 28 March 2014. Thinkstock

Businesses including an urban farm and spin-outs from Universities across the UK have received a share of £4M of funding from government and industry to develop their innovative business ideas.

The government funding comes from the £70M Agri-Tech Catalyst announced as part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies. BBSRC contributed £30M to the fund. It is designed to support businesses and universities to bridge the difficult gap between lab research and the marketplace.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "The pioneering projects announced today are the businesses of the future and this funding will make a real difference in bringing innovative ideas from the lab to the marketplace. This work is critical in supporting the UK's Agri-tech Strategy and our commitment to establish the UK as a world leader in agriculture technology, innovation and sustainability.

Agriculture and Science Minister Lord De Mauley said: "Farmers are the backbone of the £97Bn agri-food sector. The 11 projects announced today will be invaluable in helping them take advantage of the latest science and innovation, supporting our world-class agricultural technology sector."

Some of the projects will look into new farming techniques – such as cultivation of seaweed, where booming consumer demand for the food far outstrips wild supply. Others focus on solving problems affecting farmers; including tackling a cattle disease that currently costs the dairy industry over £200M a year.

Judith Batchelar, Leadership Council Industry co-Chair said: "This is a very exciting time for agriculture in the UK. The Agri-Tech Catalyst is bridging the well known funding gap between the lab and the market place. The 11 projects announced today all have the potential for significant impact on the sector, but this is only the start. I encourage all those in industry, with their expertise in the problems agriculture is facing, to work with our world-class universities and jointly apply for the second round of Catalyst funding."

BBSRC Chief Executive Jackie Hunter said: "BBSRC investment in food and farming research is finding new ways of feeding a growing population in a more sustainable way. These exciting new projects will turn research into practice, helping to deliver new sources of food, boost current harvests and find new food production methods with less environmental impact."

The 11 projects will receive £2.8M funding from government with £1.4M co-investment from industry. They span 3 key areas of the agriculture sector – crops, livestock, and aquaculture:

In crops:

  • The James Hutton Institute is leading a consortium to develop a set of tools to make it easier, cheaper and faster to incorporate useful properties from related wild plants into mainstream varieties.
  • Saturn Bioponics is working with The University of Manchester to prototype nutrient composition sensing technology for hydroponic farming.
  • University of York is working with Syngenta to investigate a new paradigm in pesticide discovery and optimisation
  • ADAS UK is working with Sainsbury's and The University of Manchester to develop a tractor-mounted sensor to reduce the cost and carbon footprint of wheat production.
  • The Royal Holloway University is working with Germains to improve seed priming – a technique used to improve the quality of vegetable seeds.
  • GrowUp Urban Farms is leading a consortium to build the UK's first aquaponic urban farm to quantify the economic and environmental potential of sustainable urban farming.
  • Exosect is working with EsEye to examine harnessing natural fungi to control insect and mite pests in grain storage.

In livestock:

  • The University of Nottingham is working with Quality Milk Management to improve the treatment and management of mastitis in dairy cattle.
  • Cambivac Limited is working with Moredun Scientific to develop technology to produce vaccines that more effectively control disease (PRRS) in swine.

In aquaculture:

  • The National Lobster Hatchery is leading a consortium to develop novel cultivation techniques to expand the aquaculture industry to include the European lobster.
  • The Scottish Association for Marine Sciences is leading a consortium to develop technology to farm two species of seaweed.

Businesses and researchers with ideas that have the potential to solve global agricultural challenges can now apply for the second round of Catalyst funding. Information is available on the Technology Strategy Board website.

The Agri-Tech Catalyst, run by the Technology Strategy Board and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, forms part of the UK's Industrial Strategy for Agriculture – a long term plan and £160M government investment which sets out how the government, researchers and industry will build on the strengths of the UK agricultural technologies sector.

Technology Strategy Board Chief Executive Iain Gray said: "Agricultural science and technology is one of the world's fastest-growing markets, technological breakthroughs and global challenges mean there are many opportunities for growth. But we need to speed up the time it takes to turn a great idea into a marketable product. The Catalyst initiative aims to bring this about, improving the way that businesses and researchers work together."


Notes to editors

  1. Launched in October 2013, the Catalyst supports industry-led 'proof of concept' development of near-market agricultural innovations. Designed to attract co-investment from industry, the Catalyst will aim to involve small and medium sized enterprises alongside larger companies. The £70M Government investment includes £10M to support the transfer of technology and new products to developing countries.
  2. The £70M Agri-Tech Catalyst is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Department for International Development.
  3. The Agri-Tech Catalyst is run by the Technology Strategy Board and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Tags: BIS crops farming food press release