Nine UK companies receive £24 million package from the Government to establish a more efficient system of food production
A project in Nottingham that converts carbon dioxide into clean animal feed is one of nine pioneering agricultural technology projects set to benefit from £24 million of government funding.
Nottingham-based consortium REACT-FIRST will receive more than £2 million to generate clean, sustainable food for fish and poultry with an up to 75 percent smaller carbon footprint.
Led by Nottingham company Deep Branch Biotechnology, the project will use its technology to turn carbon dioxide from Drax Power’s Selby power station into animal food with minimal water usage and without the need for arable farmland.
The consortium says the funding will allow it to provide a greener alternative to soy and fishmeal for the animal industry. This will enable industries that traditionally create higher levels of waste, such as agriculture, to contribute to a cleaner environment.
The project will work with Sainsbury’s as well as the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre to integrate into the fish and poultry supply chain.
UK as a science superpower
It is one of nine projects benefiting from a £24 million package from the UK Government, which is applying big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to UK farming, with the aim of establishing a more efficient system of food production that cuts costs and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The funding is part of the Government’s commitment to boost spending on research and development to £22 billion by 2024/25, and long-term plan for the UK to become a science superpower.
“From robotics assisting our farmers in fruit picking, to technology that converts CO2 to clean animal feed, the incredible projects we are backing today represent the future of farming,” said Science Minister, Amanda Solloway.
“Working with the best of British science, we are turning our most creative ideas into pioneering projects that will accelerate our transition to net zero food production, boost jobs and drive forward the UK’s economic recovery.”
Beacon of innovation
Other projects receiving funding include the world’s first Autonomous Growing System (AGS), led by Optimal Labs in London. It will receive more than £2 million to provide autonomous technology that controls climate, irrigation and lighting, enabling any crop variety to be grown in any location. Its aim is to 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.
A further project led by Saga Robotics in Lincoln 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. This will help provide a more efficient food supply at a cheaper cost, allowing farmers to commit more time to the wider running of their farms.
“It’s great to see investment in these outstanding ideas which will help us tackle the farming industry’s greatest challenges, from achieving net zero emissions to investing in sustainable alternative protein for animal feed. Farming has never before been at the centre of such exciting and forward-looking innovations,” said Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis.
Melanie Welham, executive director, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UKRI, said the projects “show that the food production sector is a beacon of innovation. These brilliant ideas have the potential to make food production more resilient, efficient and less resource intensive…. UKRI’s funding programme for this sector is ongoing. In this funding round, we’ve awarded funding to nine innovative companies. In the future, we encourage businesses to come forward with fresh ideas to help UK agriculture.”
A list of the nine companies can be found here.