Defra has set out plans to boost home-grown fruit and vegetable production and improve the uptake of technology in the horticulture sector.
To kickstart the plans, Defra secretary Ranil Jayawardena has announced £12.5m of extra funding for the Farming Innovation Programme (FIP).
This will be available to support research and development projects that lead to greater automation and the use of robotics through the horticultural sector. The fund opens in January and will match-fund projects that drive economic growth, food security, and deliver on environmental commitments, according to Defra.
Previous projects that have been supported by the program included fruit-scouting robots, automated vegetable harvesters, and new types of fertilizer. A Defra spokeswoman said the department also wanted to support glasshouse growing, which has multiple economic, food security, and sustainability benefits.
But the controlled-environment horticulture sector currently represents only 10% of English horticultural businesses.
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