The UK government is investing heavily in promoting the development of agri-robotics. The country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced its latest investment of £12.5m in robotic technologies, to promote sustainable farming.

A total of 19 initiatives will benefit from this fund through the Farming Futures Automation and Robotics competition.

Agriculture Minister Mark Spencer recently announced the funding , emphasising the importance of robotics role in elevating productivity, ensuring food security and advancing sustainable agriculture in the UK. Highlighted projects which benefit from the fund include a system to enhance strawberry yield, quality and efficiency; a drone, robot and sensor-based solution for vineyard mapping and monitoring, and a navigation tool for farming robots to guarantee accuracy and safety in field operations.

Minister Spencer stressed his government’s commitment to agri-tech as pivotal to modern farming. He highlighted the various funding opportunities under the Farming Innovation Programme during the World Agri-Tech Summit in London. This includes £10m available for the Small R&D Partnerships competition supporting new farming product development, and £4.5m for the Feasibility Studies Competition aiding research phases.

All these funds stem from the Farming Futures Automation and Robotics competition, a segment of Defra’s £270m Farming Innovation Programme (FIP), overseen by Innovate UK.

Since its inception in October 2021, the FIP has backed 17 contests.

Code of practice

During the summer, BSI, the national standards body of the UK, released a code of practice aimed at promoting the safer utilisation of tools in agriculture. This code is focused on autonomous mobile machinery (AMM) in agriculture and horticulture, and has been developed to empower various stakeholders, such as farmers, horticulturists, government agencies, manufacturers of autonomous mobile machinery, importers, distributors, and other users, to effectively and safely use available technology.