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Further R&D funding announced as successful pig projects revealed

23rd Aug 2022 / By Alistair Driver

A total of £16.5 million in additonal funding for innovative farming R&D projects has been announced by the Government. 

The next rounds of the Feasibility Projects and the Small R&D Partnership Project competitions are due to open shortly. The £16.5 million of funding will help drive innovation in agriculture and horticulture and is part of the Government’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme.

Farmers, growers, foresters, businesses and researchers are being invited to collaborate and submit applications for these two new competitions:

A £5.5m competition for ‘Feasibility projects’ will offer grants for projects worth between £200,000 and £500,000 to support research and development through the difficult testing phase of an idea to see if it is worth investing in further

Winners of the ‘Small R&D Partnership’ competition will receive a share of the £11m grant funding for industrial research projects worth between £1m and £3m to further develop new solutions that will ultimately address major on-farm or immediate post farmgate challenges or opportunities such as enhancing productivity and sustainability.

Successful projects

To coincide with the announcement, details of research and development projects to receive funding through the first round of the Farming Innovation Programme were shared by UKRI on Monday. Successful applications from the first round of Small R&D Partnership Projects, Feasibility Projects and Research Starter Projects, launched in October 2021 

Details of the swere shared by UKRI on Monday. They include artificial Intelligence technology to optimise welfare in pigs and a rapid and cheap test for major bacterial and viral lung pathogens of pigs.


3d tailsThis is an automated monitoring using machine vision and volatile organic compound sensors. Led by Innovent Technology Ltd and costing £785,554, this is an intelligent user-friendly platform that brings together state-of-the-art image and sensor technologies combined with AI to supports farmers in optimising livestock production whilst assuring the highest animal welfare standards.

FarmSense’s smart monitoring system continuously analyses animal growth, behaviour and gas profiles along with the animal’s day and night patterns. The AI system learns how to automatically detect any changes in pattern indicating problems such as:

  • early disease onset
  • tail biting
  • abnormal eating or drinking behaviours.

The system then delivers early on-screen alerts and prompts to farm workers.


This is a farm point-of-care diagnostic for the porcine respiratory disease complex. Costing £366,379 and led by ProtonDX Ltd, this project is developing a test that can rapidly and cheaply detect major bacterial and viral lung pathogens of pigs that can be used for on-farm detection.

The PorcinE Respiratory Pathogen-Identification (PERP-ID) device is designed to identify the five bacterial and three major viral lung pathogens of pigs. It is based on an electronic system developed by ProtonDx that can rapidly detect the presence of specific DNA molecules.

Other successful projects include agri-robots to help speed up vegetable harvests and automation to increase fruit crop yields comes. 

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

Farming Innovation Minister Steve Double said:  “We want to help unlock greater potential in our already brilliant farming and horticulture sector. Today’s first round of projects demonstrate how – with the right funding and support – there are great productivity and environmental sustainability gains to be made.

Katrina Hayter, challenge director for the Transforming Food Production challenge, said: “From animal health to crop productivity, the introduction of strategic support technology and the precise application of chemicals, it’s exciting to see so many concepts beginning to come to life.”