Sainsbury’s announced nine new research and development (R & D) grants during its fourth annual Farming Conference in Warwickshire on Friday.
The 2014 grants, five of which went to fresh produce-related projects, will see around £110,000 go to research into sustainability and cutting-edge technologies.
Recipients included Vitacress, VHB and University of Southampton for work on reducing water footprint and extending shelf life of potted and cut herbs, with a target of growing 100 per cent of herbs in the UK.
AC Goatham, East Malling Trust and Robert Mitchell Farms received a grant to improve the yield of UK pears by optimising pollination.
A project looking at innovative pest controls to improve organic brassicas will be boosted by money going to Produce World, Burgess Farms, Taylorgrown, Biobest, Northumberland University and Stockbridge Technology Centre.
Sainsbury’s asparagus supplier Barfoots of Botley and Kew Foundation will be supported in their restorative work to combat declining biodiversity and deforestation in Peru.
A scheme to develop frost-protection for UK leeks received a grant towards its target of extending the season by six to eight weeks. The project is being carried out by Allpress Farms, Harper Adams University, AHDB Potato Council and Precision Agronomy.
Theresa Huxley, Sainsbury's product technologist, said the R & D projects show how Sainsbury’s continues to push the industry forward.
She added: “It was personally great to see Clive Goatham share his knowledge with the various agricultural and horticultural industry sectors."
Speakers at the conference - at Stoneleigh Park - included Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King, commercial director Mike Coupe and several of the retailer’s suppliers including Clive Goatham of AC Goatham.
The nine grants were awarded to a shortlist taken from 56 applications across 21 sectors.
Director of Sainsbury’s brand Judith Batchelor said part of Sainsbury’s strategy is to invest in things that will collectively make businesses more sustainable in the future.
She said: “The challenge is how do we focus the resources that we’ve got onto things that really can deliver a viable commercial alternative.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how this projects deliver. For me, the most rewarding thing about these R and D grants is the fact that they are truly collaborative.”