Farming Futures: automation & robotics

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £12.5M to develop innovative solutions for automation and robotics. This funding is from the Farming Futures R&D Fund. Interested to find out more? Then get in touch!


Competition closes: 15 March 2023, 11am

Applicants notified: 19 May 2023

Project start date: by 01 September 2023


For collaborative projects with ambitious solutions for robotics and automation in agriculture and horticulture by:

  • supporting specific recommendation for automation innovation funding from recent Defra reviews including the Automation in Horticulture Review (specifically recommendations 2 and 3) and the Government Food Strategy
  • addressing key issues affecting the sector, where automation and robotics can mitigate challenges in for example, labour availability or input costs through better resource use and efficiency

This competition is split into 2 strands:

  • Strand 1 – Industrial research; accelerating collaborative R&D with the UK’s world-leading research base, agri-tech businesses, SMEs and the UK agricultural sector to develop innovations in agriculture and horticulture
  • Strand 2 – Experimental development; accelerating the deployment and uptake of innovation for robotics and automation in agriculture and horticulture that is almost at commercial stage

The innovative technologies in your proposal must focus on one or more of the following:

  • robotic and automated machines and systems for static or mobile operation
  • imaging, sensing, and monitoring devices and systems to collect and store data and associated systems to process data for management records and to drive management decisions and automated actions
  • systems for on-farm processing and packing operations

Projects must seek to significantly improve:

  • productivity
  • sustainability and environmental impact of farming
  • progression towards net zero emissions
  • longer term resilience

You must be able to demonstrate how the solution and output will benefit farmers, or growers in England.

Your project must:

  • demonstrate environmental benefits and societal impact
  • include clear project deliverables for measuring the sustainability of your solutions, and how they are preventing negative impact upon the sector
  • ensure your solutions are closely aligned with industry priorities to deliver business-orientated and transformative opportunities
  • consider how it will encourage dissemination and knowledge exchange to the wider sector

Specific Themes

Livestock: Monogastric; Ruminant

Plant: Broadacre: cereals, root crops, grassland; Horticulture: field based and specialist growers; Fruit: top fruit, stone fruit and soft fruit; Vineyard; Protected cropping: glass and polytunnel systems; Controlled Environment and Vertical Farming Systems

Projects that will not be funded

  • are equine specific
  • are forestry specific
  • are specific to non-food or ornamental plants
  • involve wild caught fisheries
  • involve aquaculture for fish production or human consumption
  • involve cellular expression of proteins or cultivated meat
  • involve acellular production systems, fermentation systems for bacteria, yeast or fungi for human consumption
  • are for the production of crops or plants for medicinal or pharmaceutical use
  • do not benefit farmers or growers in England
  • involve post farm gate processing and packaging
  • are dependent on export performance, or dependent on domestic inputs usage


  • Projects must be led by a UK business, of any size, and collaborate with other UK based organisations
  • R&D work must be carried out in the UK and project results exploited from UK.
  • Subcontractors are allowed, preferably UK-based, with appropriate and justified costs.
  • Have a minimum of 50% of any grant that is requested by farmers, growers or foresters, allocated to farmers, growers or foresters based in England.
  • Subsidy Control Act 2022 and EC State Aid funding rules apply.

Funding Rates

  • Strand 1 Industrial Research: £500,000 and £1M; 36-48 months duration
  • Strand 2 Experimental Development: £750,000-1.5M; 24-36 months duration

For Industrial Research you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For Experimental Development you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation

Research organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the UK total eligible project costs.

How PNO can support you

The UK team has a strong track record in securing some of the most competitive national and European grants on behalf of its clients, with a full understanding of how a project should be presented to stand the highest chance of success. Each year in the UK alone, we are responsible for the submission of more than 100 funding applications across all sectors and priority areas. Based on this extensive experience, through careful project selection and using key insight into how a project should be best positioned, we consistently achieve success rates that are more than 5 times the typical success rates for UK and EU schemes.

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