Applications for the first round of funding from a £90 million pot to revolutionise how food is produced, and reduce its environmental impact, will begin later this month the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has announced.
The Transforming Food Production Challenge, part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, will bring together the UK’s agri-food sector with robotics, satellite, data and digital technologies and artificial intelligence. It is hoped the Challenge will help make the UK a world leader in precision farming techniques.
“Precision farming is the future of farming and food production,” said Professor Melanie Welham, Executive sponsor for the Transforming Food Production Challenge at UK Research and Innovation. “There is an enormous opportunity for the UK to lead the world in deploying smart technologies to the field, farm and factory and truly transform the entire ‘farm to fork’ supply chain. We have to grasp that opportunity now, and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will help make that happen. We will be able to farm sustainably, produce healthy, nutritious and economically viable food, while preserving farmland and the wider environment for future generations,”
The UK agri-tech sector contributes £14.3 billion to UK economy, employing 500,000 people, with companies and researchers developing pioneering technologies from farming drones to 3D printing. The first funding competition call opens on Monday 20 August 2018 with an investment up to £20 million. The call has two main themes:
- To drive productivity and improve environmental outcomes in crop and ruminant production systems
- To develop new, highly efficient, high-value food production systems that maximise productivity and improve environmental performance.
Projects must focus on the development of enhanced decision support, precision agriculture technology solutions and systems.
Photo Caption: Professor Melanie Welham.
Photo Credit: BBSRC
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A new AgriFood Training Partnership (AFTP) has been launched which claims to build on the three previous Advanced Training Partnerships (ATPs) in agri-food, food and pasture. These former partnerships were all funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with the primary aim of translating cutting edge research into applied industry expertise within the agri-food sector. Since 2012, they have delivered short course training and postgraduate qualifications to over 1,500 individuals from more than 700 businesses.
The new AFTP combines skills and knowledge from six different university partners and is collectively offering more than 150 courses and workshops in all areas of agricultural production, environmental protection, food manufacture and scientific research.
Carol Wagstaff, Professor in Crop Quality for Health and Director of the AFTP commented, “We are delighted to be in the privileged position of receiving a further £1.5 million from BBSRC to enable unification of the AFTP and expansion into new markets both at home and overseas. In an era of climate change, food insecurity and an ever growing population, the AFTP is helping the industry’s best talent to deepen their knowledge, advance their skills and progress their careers through flexible training opportunities and continuing professional development.”
Photo Credit: BBSRC
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A new industry-funded joint project aims to increase the UK asparagus season.
Funded by Innovate UK, BBSRC and the asparagus industry, the £600,000 initiative is being led by Cranfield University, with partners Cobrey Farms and ICA (International Controlled Atmosphere).
“The project is about extending the storage life of UK asparagus by up to six weeks with innovative dynamically controlled atmosphere technology usually applied to apples,” explained Professor Leon Terry, who heads Cranfield University’s Soil and Agrifood Institute, adding that his 20-strong postharvest team is one of the largest in the EU. “We are basically transferring that technology to asparagus and using some of the knowledge acquired to extend the UK season.”
The project will investigate the feasibility of using ICA’s SafePod system, currently being trialled in the apple industry, on asparagus. “We’re investigating an idea and that doesn’t mean it’ll work, but if it does it will be fantastic – it will be a huge step forward,” said John Chinn of Cobrey farms which currently produces almost a third of the UK asparagus crop. “We know it works with apples and blueberries, but they have a low respiration rate in comparison with asparagus.”
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The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and 12 industry partners are to fund six research projects to improve the sustainability of UK farming.
The grants totalling £4.7 million are part of the first round of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Innovation Club (SARIC), which was developed by BBSRC, NERC and industry partners, which pay a subscription fee to be part of SARIC, to support innovative projects that will provide solutions to key challenges affecting the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.
Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said, “These studies will help address important challenges for the UK’s farming industry, which is worth billions to our economy, and help progress towards sustainable agricultural systems for the future.
“The collaboration between industry and the Research Councils as part of SARIC will streamline the translation of findings from these studies into tangible benefits for producers and consumers, and help us meet the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing world population.”
The funded projects include a study to look at the impacts of different vegetation in riparian buffer strips on hydrology and water quality.
The second call for SARIC applications is now open for grant proposals with up to £5M available in research grants and research translation grants. The theme of the call is ‘predictive capabilities for sustainable agriculture’. For more information about the second SARIC call visit: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/opportunities/2015/saric-apply/
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