Transforming food production challenge

Food production research

Credit: Lettus Grow

This challenge is supporting new ways to produce food that reduce emissions and pollution and contribute to feeding a growing world population.

We are investing up to £90 million of funding to help businesses, researchers and industry to transform food production, meet the growing demand and move towards net zero emissions by 2040.

It is predicted that 60% 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.

Funding will be invested in:

  • future food production systems
  • science and technology into practice
  • international opportunities
  • investment ecosystems.

Watch the video ‘ISCF: transforming food production’ (YouTube)

Future food production systems

This funding stream will stimulate the development of new high-value food production systems. To date, we have invested over £16 million in projects led by five innovative companies:

  • Insectrial Revolution, led by start-up company Entocycle, is developing a complete system demonstrator using black soldier flies to convert industrial-scale food waste from farms and factories into a sustainable insect-based animal feed and biofertiliser. Read more about the Entocycle project.
  • REACT-FIRST, led by Deep Branch Biotechnology, will produce food for fish and poultry using carbon dioxide, applying a unique CO2-to-protein process with no requirements for arable land and minimal water usage.
  • The ‘Production at the point of consumption’ project, led by Evogro, will research and develop the next generation of autonomous growing systems for on-site growing of high-value produce (specialty salad leaves, herbs and microgreens) by food service operators.
  • InFarm2.x, led by vertical farming business InFarm, is developing a farming system that can grow a wider variety of fruit and vegetables than currently possible in vertically stacked levels, using monitoring technology to observe growth patterns.
  • AGRI-SATT, led by Feed Algae, will combine data from an algae growing system using seawater to produce food in deserts, with satellite data to automate production and increase nutritional quality.

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.

This funding stream have awarded over £14 million to projects, including:

  • Autonomous Growing System, led by Optimal Labs, is developing autonomous technology that controls climate, irrigation and lighting, enabling any crop variety to be grown in any location – significantly increasing production levels and resource-efficiency in UK greenhouses.
  • Robot Highways, led by Saga Robotics, will perform the largest known global demonstration of robotics and autonomous technologies on a farm. A fleet of robots will carry out energy-intensive processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops against diseases.
  • GelPonic, led by AEH Innovative Hydrogel, will develop a growth material that conserves water and protects plants by filtering pathogens and includes a new graphene-based internet-connected device that allows remote monitoring of vertical farms.
  • REMEDY, led by Quality Milk Management Services, will provide precision technologies to provide dairy farmers with real-time data for efficient farm operations. This includes for instance wearable devices for cows tracking their behaviour and nutrition.
  • TUBERSCAN-DEMO, led by B-hive, will develop and test an innovative demonstrator system to measure average potato sizes and yield throughout potato fields, providing insights for selective harvesting, optimising crop yield and resource use. Read more about the Tuberscan project.

International opportunities

This is a programme to identify and accelerate shared international priorities and help build export opportunities for pioneering agricultural technologies and innovations with partners overseas. It currently includes two streams:

  • in Canada, to help UK companies to access precision agriculture markets in North America
  • in China, to help exploit rapidly emerging market opportunities in Asia.

Investment ecosystem

UKRI research shows that the UK lags internationally on late-stage investment in agri-tech. 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.

To address a lack of private agri-tech investment, we have created an Investor Partnership programme to encourage venture capital firms to take a stake in innovative UK agri-tech businesses working to achieve net zero emissions.

The programme aims to deliver government grant and venture capital funding to SMEs close to taking their product to the market. It is set to deliver £5 million in grant funding for late-stage projects, coupled with private investment matched by a ratio of at least 2:1 by the private investors.

The Investor Partnership programme is seeking small and medium-sized businesses aspiring to transform food production while targeting net zero by 2040, with focus areas including:

  • robotics
  • artificial intelligence
  • novel proteins
  • vertical farming
  • integrated supply chains
  • autonomous growing systems
  • precision agriculture.

Project stories

Last updated: 28 January 2021

NOTEThis is the first phase of our new website – let us know if you have feedback or would like to help us test new developments.