New initiative is part of the government’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme to find sustainable food solutions

Defra has opened a £12.5m competition to support research and innovation in the hope of developing products such as high-protein crops and methane-reducing animal feed.

Farmers, growers, foresters, businesses and researchers have been invited to apply with projects to help increase domestic production of healthy and sustainable protein. The competition is part of the government’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme being run in partnership with UK Research and Innovation’s Transforming Food Production Challenge.

The aim is to accelerate the development of novel and disruptive technologies to create new sources of resource-efficient, low-emission proteins, leading to a more sustainable farming model for the future. This will help improve farming productivity, resilience in the sector and move existing agricultural sectors towards net zero, according to Defra.

The competition is split into ‘Feasibility’ projects (up to two years), and ‘Industrial Research’ (up to five years for breeding projects). Projects must have a value of £200k-£500k and £500k-£1m respectively.

Defra parliamentary under secretary of state Steve Double said: ”Our farmers and food producers are the best in the world, and we want to encourage collaboration across the sector to help improve productivity and sustainability. Food production and environmental protection are two sides of the same coin. It’s why we are spending £270m to support farmers to innovate for the future through the Farming Innovation Programme.

”Whether it’s a game-changing animal feed that helps animals produce less methane or new high-protein crops, this competition is now open to support its development.”

Altogether, Defra said it expects to spend around £600m on grants and other support for farmers to invest in productivity, animal health and welfare, innovation, research and development over the next three years.