Defra has announced a new series of funding opportunities to drive on-farm innovation in agriculture and horticulture, supporting the sector to improve sustainability, productivity and resilience.
Following on from the Farming Innovation Pathways competition earlier this year, the new R&D partnerships will bring together farmers and growers with technology, business and research partners to collaborate in developing innovative solutions.
Supporting innovation in agri-tech
This approach of placing farmers and growers at the centre of agri-tech development is something we enthusiastically support at Agri-EPI Centre. Since its inception, Agri-EPI has partnered with a network of farms around the UK to form our Farming Innovation Platform.
Our satellite farm network enables the development, testing, validation and demonstration of agri-tech innovations on commercial, real-world farming settings at scale. They cover a diverse range of farming types and production systems, both livestock, arable and mixed; conventional and organic.
As a network, the group provides a unique opportunity to gain farmer insight into challenges and solutions, share experience, knowledge and perspectives into technology application and gain vital user feedback. Highly instrumented, the network also supports all-important ground-truthing and validation of technology.
When is the right time to engage farmers in technology development?
In short: throughout the entire process. It is never too early to engage farmers and other end-users in R&D.
- Understanding the problem: we are often approached by technology developers bringing skills and expertise from outside of agriculture, looking for problems to solve in the sector. Having meaningful interaction with farmers at this early stage helps technology developers to understanding the realities on farm, operationally, commercially and environmentally.
- User-centred design, co-development: whatever the buzz-word, involving users of technology in its design and development will ensure it meets their needs and requirements, and ultimately will increase its chances of more rapid adoption. It will also save time and cost in multiple iterations, with faster and more direct user feedback.
- Evaluation: there is nothing more exciting that getting a prototype out into a field of a livestock shed and seeing it in action. Getting the farmers’ feedback here as part of a commercial operation will guide how the technology (whether physical hardware or a software / data solution) needs to develop to get from a prototype or beta version towards a commercial product
- Knowledge exchange: in laying the foundations for technology adoption, there is no voice more powerful than a fellow farmer or grower who can share their experience with the technology first-hand. Peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge, experience, ideas and impact is far more effective that a traditional ‘show and tell’ led by the developer themselves.
In partnership with our member Innovation for Agriculture, Agri-EPI is co-hosting an interactive online workshop focused on impact-driven farmer-centred technology development, which will explore these principles further and feature case studies showcasing success. To join the event, taking place on October 12th, please see our events pages or contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further details and to register.
Defra’s R&D Partnerships will fund the following:
|Competition||Launching||Duration and funding||Outline|
|Research Starter||October 2021||12 month projects; £28-56k total cost||Supporting farmers and growers to build a collaborative team to develop their bold and ambitious early-stage ideas. For those who have not previously received IUK funding|
|Feasibility projects||October 2021||Up to 2 years;
£200-500k total cost
|Test the feasibility of early-stage ideas to inform decision-making on subsequent R&D|
|Small R&D partnerships||October 2021||Up to 3 years;
£1-3 million total cost
|R&D for innovative solutions to substantially improve productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector|
|Large R&D partnerships||Early 2022||Up to 4 years;
£3-5 million total cost
|R&D and demonstration of solutions to substantially improve productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector|
For more information on how we can support your ideas for innovations that will enhance the sustainability, productivity and resilience of agriculture and horticulture, contact the Agri-EPI Centre team today.
We recommend getting in touch with our Innovation Support Partner Leyton today for more information: https://agri-epicentre.com/membership/leyton-partnership/