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The government is to invest £160m into UK agriculture

The government today announced it is investing £160m in a bid to make the UK a world leader in agricultural science and technology and meet the future challenges of food security.

The UK agricultural technologies strategy will see £90m ploughed into agricultural innovation and farming technologies and the creation of a £70m agri-tech ‘catalyst’ fund, which will help deliver agricultural technologies to the marketplace. The investment will also see the recruitment of a new agri-tech team, which will boost exports and overseas investment in UK agricultural technologies.

Developed in partnership with industry, the strategy is designed to deliver sustainable, healthy and affordable food for future generations and will be overseen by a new leadership council of representatives from across the agriculture sector, including food and farming production, industry, science and research, and government.

“To get ahead in the global race, this strategy sets out how we can ensure that we turn our world-beating agricultural science and research into world-beating products and services”

David Willetts

The investment will raise questions about the government’s direction on GM; however a spokesman for Defra confirmed that no money has yet been earmarked for any particular area of focus, and said that it is up to industry to come forward with ideas as to how the money should be spent.

“Some of the biggest brands in farming and food are based in the UK. We have a world-class science and research community and our institutes and universities are at the forefront of agricultural research,” said universities and science minister David Willetts.  

“To get ahead in the global race, this strategy sets out how we can ensure that we turn our world-beating agricultural science and research into world-beating products and services.”

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The investment aims to build on breakthroughs in nutrition, informatics, satellite imaging, remote sensing, meteorology and precision farming.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “The strategy resonates strongly with existing developments and initiatives involving many food, farming and research organisations and will catalyse lots of further activity.

“Skills and training for farmers are absolutely critical so that knowledge generated through agri-science can be adopted at a commercial scale. It is essential that the science is translated into activity and behaviour change on farm.

“The NFU is committed to working with the government and the leadership council to ensure this strategy can contribute to a step-change in productivity, competitiveness and resilience of UK farm businesses. Profitability and confidence to invest are vital if farmers are to adopt innovative approaches.”

Research partnership

The government also announced today a £30m investment in agri-science research and innovation by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and a multimillion-pound scientific research partnership between Rothamsted Research and Syngenta to increase wheat productivity.

The agri-food supply chain, from agriculture to final retailing and catering, is estimated to contribute £96bn to the economy and employ 3.8 million people.