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Transforming food production

An overview of the government’s challenge to industry and research to transform how we produce food to feed the expanding global population.


Transforming food production

What is the transforming food production challenge?

It is predicted that 60 percent more food will be needed worldwide by 2050 to feed the increasing global population.

To do this, we need to be able to produce resilient and sustainable food more efficiently. This will reduce emissions and pollution, minimise waste and improve soil.

The UK is home to research and industries at the forefront of understanding crops and livestock. We are already a global leader in environmental management and earth observation, sensors, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics. By funding research and innovation projects that build on our strengths, we can transform the precision agricultural sector and meet the challenge.

It will also help create high-value jobs, growth and export opportunities.

What’s the investment?

Up to £90 million of funding is available to help businesses, researchers and industry to transform food production, meet the growing demand and move towards net zero emissions by 2040.

What are the opportunities?

Opportunities will be available to UK based researchers and businesses.

Funding will be invested in:

Future Food Production Systems

We will help transform food production systems, improve productivity and sustainability, and help the industry move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040. The investment will stimulate establishment of novel high value production systems to position UK technologies at the forefront of new industries.

To date, we have invested £10 million in 4 innovative and technologically advanced companies.  Projects funded are:

  • REACT-FIRST (Nottingham), led by Deep Branch Biotechnology, will receive over £2 million to use carbon dioxide from Drax Power’s Selby power station and apply its unique CO2-to-protein process to generate food for fish and poultry with up to 75% smaller carbon footprints, no requirements for arable land and minimal water usage. 
  • Production at the Point of Consumption (Maidstone) led by Evogro, will receive nearly £850,000 to research and develop the next generation of autonomous growing systems, to ensure they are affordable for new consumer markets, and to make it an economic method to produce mainstream crops.
  • InFarm2.x (London) led by vertical farming business InFarm will receive over £3 million to develop a farming system that can grow a wider variety of fruit and vegetables than is currently possible by growing their crops in vertically stacked levels, rather than on a single level surface, such as a field. It will also use technology including gas sensors and monitoring cameras to observe the growth patterns of their crops, helping to identify the optimal growing conditions, increasing productivity.
  • AGRI-SATT (London) led by Feed Algae, will receive over £4 million for its project which is based around an algae growing system that exploits natural seawater to produce food in deserts. This project aims to combine data from the growing system with satellite data to automate production and increase the nutritional quality of the food produced.

For more information, please see the press release.

Science and Technology into Practice

We will strengthen connections between innovative businesses, farmers and end users to accelerate the development and adoption of precision approaches to increase agricultural productivity whilst supporting the sector in achieving net-zero emissions by 2040.

Projects funded

Autonomous Growing System (London), led by Optimal Labs, will receive over £2 million to provide autonomous technology that controls climate, irrigation and lighting, enabling any crop variety to be grown in any location. This will significantly increase production levels and resource-efficiency in existing UK greenhouses, helping to protect the UK’s food system against climate change and population growth.

Robot Highways (Lincoln) led by Saga Robotics, will receive nearly £2.5 million to perform the largest known global demonstration of robotics and autonomous technologies on a farm. The robots will assist farmers by carrying out essential, energy intensive physical farm processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops to reduce critical pests and diseases.

GelPonic (Manchester), led by AEH Innovative Hydrogel, has developed a new growth material that will improve crop yields on farms worldwide. It will receive over £1 million to develop a material that conserves water and protects plants by filtering pathogens and includes a new graphene-based IoTdevice that allows remote-monitoring of conditions in vertical farms.

REMEDY (Bath), led by Quality Milk Management Services, will receive over £1.7 million to provide precision technologies to dairy farmers enabling them to access real time data to ensure their farm is as productive, efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. This includes technology such as wearable devices for cows that tracks their behaviour and nutrition, ensuring farmers can make more informed decisions when managing their farm.

TUBERSCAN-DEMO (Lincoln), led by B-hive, will receive nearly £2 million to develop and test an innovative demonstrator system to measure average potato sizes and yield throughout potato fields, providing insights that will enable selective harvesting to take place, optimising crop yield and resource use. It is anticipated that this technology could generate an estimated 5-10% increase in UK marketable potato production.

International opportunities

A programme to identify and accelerate shared international priorities and help build export opportunities for pioneering agricultural technologies and innovations with partners overseas in Canada to help UK companies to access precision agriculture markets in North America, and in China to help exploit rapidly emerging market opportunities in Asia.

Investment Ecosystem

We will create new approaches to working with the investment community to explore and accelerate the commercial potential of new technologies and attract investments into UK research and innovation. 

Our £5 million funding will help to leverage private investment  into UK agri-tech companies to support their growth and scale via ‘Series A’ deals that will realise a total investment of at least £15 million. 

This will represent the first significant investment into these UK companies  and will catalyse the transition of these companies from pre-revenue to commercial revenue generating companies.

Research at the Oxford Farming Conference