£16M technology investment to improve global food production & security


Twenty-four innovative agri-tech projects have today been awarded a share of £16 million funding through the latest round of the Government’s Agri-Tech Catalyst to solve some of the world’s greatest agricultural challenges – from food security and sustainability to weed control and livestock disease.

The UK is a world leader in the fast growing agri-tech sector, as global challenges such as rising population, shortages of land, water and energy require better and more reliable production of food. This round of the Government’s Agri-Tech Catalyst – alongside industry co-investment – has provided awards between £200,000 and £1.5 million to the most pioneering science and technology projects within the UK’s agricultural sector to help meet the global demand for food with the least environmental impact.

Successful projects in the fifth round of funding announcements include the development of a robot that accurately eliminates and controls weeds, which will significantly reduce the use of herbicides in food production. Another project will look at why potato greening occurs and how to prevent it – helping to reduce the 100,000 tonnes of potatoes thrown away annually. Support has also been given to develop technology that will help fruit farmers monitor and control the storage of British apples – improving their availability window across the year and reducing the need for imports.

Five projects will target challenges in developing countries, including improving methods to detect carcinogenic mould toxins in food crops.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said: “Agri-tech is fast becoming big global business, creating major investment and export opportunities for the UK.

“Whether extending the availability of UK apples to controlling the infection of cacao plants in Ghana, these innovative projects demonstrate the UK’s leadership in developing technologies and companies that will improve food and farming productivity in this country and around the world.”

Farming Minister George Eustice said: ‪“Although there has been great pressure on farm incomes over the past 12 months, I believe the industry has a good future and technological advances will help. Farmers have an essential role in building a strong economy and feeding the nation.

“Taking innovations from the laboratory to the farm is key to boosting productivity, and tackling pests and diseases. That is why the government supports projects through our Agri-Tech Strategy, like those who have won today.”

Today’s investment will help grow the UK’s agri-tech sector – which new research published today reveals is worth around £14 billion to the UK economy and employs over half a million people. Research also shows the vital role of public and private partnerships in the recent success of agri-tech – with private investment in R&D reaching almost £500 million in 2012/13.

A new funding round has also just opened of the Agri-Tech Catalyst opened which will focus solely on international development projects and will be managed by the Department for International Development.

International Development Minister Nick Hurd said: “This next round of the Agri-Tech Catalyst offers a fantastic opportunity to help farmers in the world’s poorest countries access the latest technology and innovation, helping them to get the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. This has the potential to not only end dependency on aid, but also develop new markets for Britain to trade with.

“That’s why for this round I want to see new ideas that can make a real, lasting improvement to the lives of those who desperately need it.”