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20m challenge fund launched to help farmers tackle air pollution

A new £20m challenge fund has been launched to help farmers tackle air pollution and boost food production.

It’s been run by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on behalf of the government, and is the latest round of the Transforming Food Production Challenge.

To win funding, ideas must have the potential to ‘transform current methods of production’ by improving sustainability and productivity.

To find out more about the fund and to apply visit here.

Peter Kendall, chair, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Chair, UKRI Transforming Food Production advisory group, said: ‘Equipping UK agriculture for the coming century of climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the sector and the application of the latest technology, including robotics and AI is a major part of the way forward.

‘We welcome the government’s current support for innovation in the sector and encourage farmers and other entrepreneurs to look into the offer of funding.’

Farming accounts for 88% of all UK ammonia emissions, and agriculture featured heavily in the government’s most recent Clean Air Strategy.

Ammonia is emitted during storage, landspreading and deposition of manures and slurries, and from the application of inorganic fertilisers.

To reduce ammonia emissions the strategy proposed new regulations that will require farmers to use low emission farming techniques as well as regulations that will minimise pollution from fertiliser use, including low emissions techniques for spreading slurries and digestate on land such as by injection.

Netherlands and Denmark have cut ammonia emissions by 64% and 40% between 1990 and 2016 using similar methods.

At the time, the National Farmers Union (NFU) warned that its members will need ‘considerable financial support’ to make some of the changes outlined in the strategy.

In other related news, two other UKRI schemes will open in the next month.

The first opens on October 7 and will invite joint projects from the UK and China with a focus on autonomous technologies such as sensors, systems, vehicles and robotics to enhance productivity and sustainability. These projects will aim to reduce emissions from agriculture, contributing to the target of net zero emissions from agriculture by 2040.

The second opens on October 28 and aims to strengthen ties between farmers, researchers and businesses to develop approaches to improve productivity.

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