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UK agriculture works to shrink its environmental footprint

January 1, 2022
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Farming, agricultural and related sectors have become increasingly important in the UK and are areas where Wisconsin companies could collaborate and engage with UK companies, research organizations, universities and other stakeholders to their mutual benefit.

An issue drawing increased concern throughout the world is the impact agriculture has on the environment—in particular, on climate change. Thankfully for farmers, UK agriculture has managed to increase food production while decreasing its impact on the environment. But more still needs to be accomplished.

Improved environmental performance is due to a range of factors, including efficiency and productivity gains driven by innovation and technological processes on the part of farmers and the wider agri-industry supply chain. In addition, farmers are more commonly sharing best practices through industry networks, and the government’s agri-environment plans and programs are encouraging farmers to use environmentally beneficial land management practices.

As well as decreasing its environmental footprint, UK agriculture has become an increasingly important provider of renewable energy for the UK economy through a number of technologies, including wind and solar power and energy produced from biomass.

To support this transition into cleaner and greener farming, the UK government has announced plans to:

  • Provide grants to help farmers and growers invest in technology and equipment that improves environmental sustainability and reduces carbon emissions.
  • Support farmers and growers to become more profitable and productive and receive the best prices for their produce through improved market conditions, making the supply chain more equitable.
  • Support innovation in agriculture, putting farm businesses at the front of future research and development.

As one example, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced a new funding program to support farmers, growers, foresters and other businesses to innovate through research and development. In partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), DEFRA is making £17.5 million ($23.8 million USD) available through the industry-led R&D Partnerships Fund—the first of three to open in the Farming Innovation Programme.

The program will support ambitious R&D projects to boost productivity and environmental sustainability in the agricultural and horticultural sectors, while helping them achieve their net zero ambitions. This program builds upon the success of UKRI’s £90 million ($122.4 million USD) Transforming Food Production challenge and expands on DEFRA’s partnership with UKRI for the Farming Innovation Pathways competition.

Three of the four competitions within the industry-led R&D Partnerships Fund were launched in October 2021 and the fourth will be rolled out in early 2022, which will provide funding for larger-scale R&D and demonstration projects that have the potential to improve the overall productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector. Also announced is a funding opportunity worth at least £3.5 million ($4.8 million USD) for sustainable agri-food for Net Zero Network Plus.

The network will connect researchers in universities, institutes and businesses with farmers, growers, agricultural practitioners and policymakers to build a community that will explore ambitious solutions for sustainability.


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