The first tranche of funding from the government's £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst, part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies, will support several projects likely to impact on the fresh produce sector.
Among the 11 projects, which will receive a total of £2.8m funding from government with £1.4m co-investment from industry,
- the James Hutton Institute will lead a consortium to develop tools to make it easier, cheaper and faster to incorporate useful properties from related wild plants into cultivated varieties;
- Saturn Bioponics will work with the University of Manchester to prototype nutrient composition sensing technology for hydroponic farming;
- the University of York is working with Syngenta to investigate a new paradigm in pesticide discovery and optimisation;
- the Royal Holloway University will work with Germains to improve vegetable seed priming;
- GrowUp Urban Farms will lead a consortium to build the UK's first aquaponic urban farm, to quantify the economic and environmental potential of the format.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "This work is critical in supporting the UK's Agri-tech Strategy and our commitment to establish the UK as a world leader in agriculture technology, innovation and sustainability."
Leadership Council Industry co-chair Judith Batchelar added: "This is only the start. I encourage all those in industry, with their expertise in the problems agriculture is facing, to work with our world-class universities and jointly apply for the second round of Catalyst funding."