Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced £90 million investment into agritech in a keynote speech to the National Farmers’ Union Conference.
The investment will bring together artificial intelligence, robotics and earth observation to improve supply chain resilience in the agri-food sector.
The UK’s 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.
Start-up Precision Decisions is one company using many types of technology to help boost crops in Britain’s rural areas.
Clark said the investment, delivered as part of the new the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will make it easier for farmers and agricultural supply-chain businesses to embrace technology and innovation, fuelling rural growth and creating high-skilled jobs.
“Farming is foundational not just to our economy, but to our country,” Clark told the conference.
“Providing the food and drink we live on and stewarding the countryside that is so much part of our national and local identity means there is no more essential industry.
“For your unique role in stewardship and in feeding the nation like big industry, you need to be profitable and we need to help make the conditions right for investment in the future.
“With the technological revolution that is happening, the skills of the farming workforce need to keep pace. New technologies require new abilities and today’s modern British farmer is a Swiss-Army-Knife of skills: an engineer, an environmentalist, a data scientist a biochemist, an energy producer, a tourism entrepreneur and an investor too.
“[The investment] will include the creation of ‘Translation Hubs’ bringing together farmers and growers businesses, scientists and Centres for Agricultural Innovation to apply the latest research to farming practice.”
The government’s commitments as part of the agritech investment are:
- To bring together businesses, farmers and academics and take forward priority research projects through new Challenge Platforms
- To support Innovation Accelerators which will be responsible for exploring the commercial potential of new tech ideas at pace
- To demonstrate innovative agritech projects and how they will work in practice
- To launch a new bilateral research programme that will identify and accelerate shared international priorities and help build export opportunities for pioneering agricultural-technologies and innovations overseas