Supporting farmers to be at the centre of future R&D plans

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Supporting farmers, SMEs and the wider agricultural industry in making the most of upcoming funding opportunities will be paramount in achieving a sustainable farming future through innovation, is the message from UK Agri-Tech Centre, CHAP.

As opportunities arise, such as those outlined in Defra’s impending Innovation R&D programme for agriculture, providing an effective gateway to independent advice and guidance will become increasingly important. This is because supporting farmers to access the agri-tech they need will help them to overcome upcoming key challenges in productivity, sustainability and resilience.

The programme is due to be launched next year and has three funding strands – industry-led syndicates that connect researchers and agri-food businesses, themed collaborative R&D to foster greater collaboration that addresses specific needs, and accelerating adoption through smaller-scale farmer-led R&D projects.

Innovation Director for CHAP (Crop Health & Protection), Dr Ruth Bastow, said: “For many, the new approach will shine a much needed spotlight on the importance of farmer-focused R&D, improving connectivity across the sector,  providing funding to trial novel technologies and demonstrate processes and practices to enhance uptake. 

 “This is major a leap forward for applied innovation and the acceleration of agri-tech. But, it’s important to recognise that establishing new collaborations and bidding for such funding can seem difficult if it’s not part of daily business. We hope that this is where CHAP can contribute.”  

Established as an independent link between industry, government and academia, CHAP aims to accelerate agri-tech solutions into the marketplace. It does this by building networks and consortia to deliver transformative projects, supported by partner-operated open-access facilities across the UK.

Dr Bastow added: “There are many synergies between Defra’s Innovation R&D funding scheme and the work of CHAP, particularly the overall ethos behind it all of driving growth in agriculture through innovation.

“Whether it’s an application for a smaller scale project by a farmer, or an industry-led syndicate to address a ‘big picture’ challenge, we’re able to provide the independent expertise and advice needed to help capitalise on such opportunities.

“In order for this funding programme to be a success and make a difference in the real world, it needs to be accessible. CHAP has a role to play here.”

CHAP is currently engaged in a wide range of grant-funded projects in areas such as developing novel biological products, facilitating regenerative agriculture practices, improving understanding of soil health, and supporting the adoption of integrated pest management principles (IPM).

An example of such is a collaborative project that aims to develop a new biopesticide to effectively control cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) in oilseed rape. Other examples are SlugBot – an autonomous slug monitoring and bio-molluscicide treatment system and  DIVERSify –  increasing biodiversity in crop systems through polyculture for soil health and wider system gains.

Dr Bastow concluded: “The transformation potential of these projects is a direct result of the contribution of innovative farmers, SME entrepreneurs and our wider network of agri-tech champions. 

“But, there is so much more we could do if we work collaboratively to make the most of the opportunities as they arise, including the anticipated Innovation R&D programme from Defra.”

For more information about accessing grant funding within agri-tech, or to work alongside Dr Bastow and the Innovation Team, contact



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