£90 million to help feed the nine billion

22 August 2018

The first funding from a £90 million fund that aims to revolutionise how food is produced, and dramatically reduce its environmental impact, launches later this month.

Combine harvester at work

The Transforming Food Production Challenge, part of the government's modern industrial strategy, will bring together the UK's world-leading agri-food sector with robotics, satellite, data and digital technologies, and artificial intelligence, to make the UK a world leader in the precision farming techniques needed to make sure the planet is able to feed a population of nine billion people by 2050.

The challenge, funded through the government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), will help to fuel rural growth, create high-skilled jobs and open up new export opportunities while reducing pollution and minimising waste and soil erosion.

Professor Melanie Welham, executive sponsor for the Transforming Food Production Challenge at UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), said:

Precision farming is the future of farming and food production. There is an enormous opportunity for the UK to lead the world in deploying smart technologies to the field, farm and factory, and truly transform the entire 'farm to fork' supply chain. We have to grasp that opportunity now and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will help make that happen. We will be able to farm sustainably, produce healthy, nutritious and economically viable food, while preserving farmland and the wider environment for future generations.

The UK agri-tech sector contributes £14·3 billion to the UK economy, employing 500,000 people, with companies and researchers developing pioneering technologies from farming drones to 3D printing. From fundamental biology to the farm field, the UK is home to research and industries leading the world in understanding crops and livestock. The UK is a global leader in environmental management and Earth observation, sensors, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics. The integration and application of these strengths can transform the agriculture industrial sector.

The ISCF is delivered by UKRI, who bring together the UK research councils, Innovate UK and Research England into a single organisation to create the best environment for research and innovation to flourish.

The first funding competition call opens on Monday 20 August with an investment up to £20 million. The Industry-Led Collaborative Research & Development call has two main themes:

  • To drive productivity and improve environmental outcomes in crop and ruminant production systems.
  • To develop new, highly efficient, high-value food production systems that maximise productivity and improve environmental performance.

Projects must focus on the development of enhanced decision support, precision agriculture technology solutions and systems. This includes:

  • combining digital technologies and engineering solutions with biological, environmental and/or social science to drive productivity
  • developing technologies and solutions that connect farms and supply chains
  • transferring technology from another sector into agriculture, providing this requires innovation.

For more information on the ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge competition and to apply, please visit the BBSRC website - external link.


1. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research & Innovation, is designed to develop UK industries that are fit for the future, driving progress in technologies where the UK can become a world-leader in their research and commercialisation.

2. It is part of the government's Industrial Strategy, the long-term plan to raise productivity and earning power in the UK, and is a core pillar in the government's commitment to increase funding in research and development by £4·7 billion over four years to strengthen UK science and business.