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£27m funding pot launches to boost farm productivity

NFU has described the Farm Investment Fund as “good news for farmers” but warns that application windows are “tight”.

Defra has announced the launch of the Farming Investment Fund, a £27 million pot to adopt innovative new technology and invest in productivity-boosting equipment.

Farmers, foresters and growers across England can now apply for grants to buy new equipment and infrastructure to help improve efficiency and ‘build back greener’.

Such equipment could include solar powered electric fences, water treatment systems that use ultraviolet light rather than chemicals and cameras for monitoring livestock.

The fund is split across two strands. The Farming Equipment and Technology Fund focuses on smaller grants for equipment from a set list, including electronic seeders and chemical-free disinfection systems.

Meanwhile, the Farming Transformation Fund will cover more substantial technology, with the potential to transform business performance. This strand will focus initially on water management with grants available to improve water use on farms for things like crop irrigation and constructing on-farm reservoirs.

Commenting on the launch, NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “The launch of the first productivity schemes is good news for farmers and will play a vital role in helping them invest in their businesses, boost productivity and prepare for the future.

“With more items being made available and the maximum value increasing to £25,000 for the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund, the government has clearly recognised the benefits of investing in efficient food production.

“It’s great to see funding being made available under the Farming Transformation Fund for enabling water storage on farm, which is becoming increasingly important as we experience more frequent events of drought and flooding due to global warming.”

However, he noted that the application windows for both schemes are tight and disruption to supply chains, coupled with difficulty getting planning permission to build reservoirs, could cause delays. Mr Bradshaw urged farmers to make applications as quickly as possible, and if accepted, give themselves as much time as possible to make necessary arrangements.

Farming minister, Victoria Prentis said: “Investing in new technology and equipment on farm has a real impact on productivity and yields, as well as a benefit for the environment as we build on the historic commitments of COP26.”

Eligible applicants involved in the production or processing of agricultural, horticultural or forestry products, who are based in England, can apply for a grant. Applications for both schemes are now open, but the deadlines differ – for the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund it is the 7th January 2022 at midday.

For the Farming Transformation Fund, applications can be made online with a new eligibility checker. Projects that score highly enough against the scheme objectives will be invited to make a full application. This is open until 12thJanuary 2022, and the deadline to complete full applications is 30th June 2022.

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