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13th July 2016, 10:38am
Lincoln secures share of £16 million to address global agricultural challenges
Lincoln secures share of £16 million to address global agricultural challenges Scientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, will lead three pioneering research projects as part of a new wave of government funding aimed at solving some of the world’s greatest agricultural challenges.

The new agri-tech projects, which will support innovation in farming and food production, have today (Wednesday 13th July 2016) been awarded a share of £16 million funding through the latest round of the Government’s Agri-Tech Catalyst.

The Agri-Tech Catalyst is designed to address global agricultural challenges – from food security and sustainability to weed control and livestock disease.

The University’s Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT) has secured major research grants worth more than £2.6 million to deliver three out of the 24 projects funded through this fifth round of awards. The funding – alongside industry co-investment – has provided grants between £200,000 and £1.5 million to leading-edge science and technology projects within the UK’s agricultural sector to help meet the global demand for food with the least environmental impact.

The projects delivered by University of Lincoln researchers will include the development of a robot that accurately eliminates and controls weeds, significantly reducing the use of herbicides in food production. The second study will examine and document the genome sequence of the food-borne pathogen campylobacter – the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK – with a view to dramatically reducing contamination within the food chain, and the third will focus on the production of new essential oil crops for thousands of Kenyan smallholders, aiming to develop a new sustainable income source for these farmers.

Professor Andrew Hunter, Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Science at the University of Lincoln, said: “Science has a crucial role to play in addressing many of the challenges we face in the 21st century and nowhere more so than in tackling issues of global food security.

“Our Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology draws together expertise from across the sciences, from evolutionary biologists to computer programmers, creating multi-disciplinary teams who can approach some of these challenges in creative new ways.

“We are very grateful for the support the UK Government has shown us with these latest research grant awards. It is a powerful statement about the quality and relevance of the work we are undertaking here in Lincolnshire, at the very heart of the UK’s agri-food industry.”

LIAT was launched to support and enhance productivity in the agri-food sectors. The Institute brings together the University of Lincoln’s specialisms in agri-tech and agri-food sectors, including food manufacturing, agri-robotics, agronomy and animal science. It focuses on the development of technologies to improve efficiency, sustainability, and reduce waste throughout the food pipeline with researchers based across the University’s main Brayford Pool Campus in Lincoln, Riseholme Campus just north of the city, and National Centre for Food Manufacturing at Holbeach in southern Lincolnshire.  

Professor Simon Pearson, Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology, said: “The Agri-Tech Catalyst is a fine example of government, industry and universities coming together to meet some very tangible societal and economic needs. Our research hinges on excellent science and engineering but, more fundamentally, it aims to deliver practical solutions that can make a meaningful difference to businesses and consumers. Through the work of LIAT we have already made some significant advances in areas like 3D imaging and automation, and these latest research awards open possibilities for a new wave of innovations across the full spectrum of the food cycle, from farm to fork.”

The UK is a world leader in the fast growing agri-tech sector, as global challenges such as rising population, shortages of land, water and energy require better and more reliable production of food. Today’s investment will help to further grow this sector – which new research published today reveals is worth around £14 billion to the UK economy and employs over half a million people.

Farming Minister George Eustice MP said: “Although there has been great pressure on farm incomes over the past 12 months, I believe the industry has a good future and technological advances will help. Farmers have an essential role in building a strong economy and feeding the nation.

“Taking innovations from the laboratory to the farm is key to boosting productivity, and tackling pests and diseases. That is why the government supports projects through our Agri-Tech Strategy, like those who have won today.”

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