The National Farmers Union (NFU) has welcomed the Government announcement for a £24 million funding package for pioneering agri-tech projects that work towards more efficient systems of food production.

The NFU believes the support will boost productivity and contribute towards the NFU’s ambition for net zero agriculture by 2040.

The funding will be shared across nine projects that apply big data, artificial intelligence, novel growing systems and robotics to UK horticulture and farming, with the aim of cutting costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The package forms part of UK Research & Innovation’s (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Transforming Food Production (TFP) challenge, which aims to produce food in ways that are more efficient, resilient and sustainable.

Key among the projects is Robot Highways, led by Saga Robotics in Lincoln, which will receive nearly £2.5 million to perform the largest global demonstration of robotics and autonomous technologies on a farm.

The robots will assist farmers by carrying out essential, labour intensive physical farm processes such as picking and packing fruit and treating crops.

NFU horticulture chairman Ali Capper, who co-chairs the advisory board for the Centre for Doctoral Training at Lincoln University, said: “At this difficult time it’s great news to see such investment going into projects that will help British farmers and growers become more efficient and productive in the long run.”