The winners of £11 million funding from the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)’s Farming Innovation Programme, have been confirmed.

The funding has been allocated to the Small Research and Development (R&D) Partnerships and Research Starter Pilot competitions.

The Small R&D Partnerships competition, managed by UK Research and Innovation’s Transforming Food Production (TFP) challenge, ran from October to December 2021. The TFP challenge is delivered by Innovate UK.

Its aim was to fund industrial research studies that are developing new solutions to address major on-farm or immediate post farmgate challenges and opportunities.

Applications had to focus on sustainability, resilience, productivity, and net zero ambitions, covering at least one agricultural sector from: livestock, plant, novel food production systems, bioeconomy, and forestry.

Nine projects were successful following our review and assessment of the applications. The projects covered a wide breadth of areas, tackling challenges for different food stakeholders.

They include Farmsense’s use of sensor technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise welfare analysis in pigs, and the CowView project, a hands-free health monitoring tool that replaces wearable devices in cows.

Away from animals, the Project Blue Plant II aims to build upon its technology predecessor to continue to increase fruit crop yield and quality.

The Muddy Machines agri-robot concept, which aims to speed up vegetable harvesting with sustainability and reliability at its core, was also successful.

TFP challenge Director, Katrina Hayter, said: “You only need look at the sheer breadth of projects that have received funding to see there are so many opportunities for innovation across the food sector.

“From animal health to crop productivity, the introduction of strategic support technology and the precise application of chemicals, it’s exciting to see so many concepts beginning to come to life.

“When brought together, it shows how the whole food system can benefit from new ideas, with knowledge-sharing and collaboration at its core. We are keen to ensure farmers and growers remain at the heart of projects.

“This helps bring their valuable real-life experiences to the project consortia to ensure each innovation stays focused on improving the day-to-day challenges faced by the food sector. We now look forward to supporting these projects further as they develop.”