The much anticipated Improving Farm Productivity grant – part of the Farming Investment Fund – is now open to farmers, foresters and growers in England, as well as agricultural contractors.
Those planning to invest in their businesses are being urged to consider whether this grant could be suitable for them.
To be successful, projects are required to aim to reduce environmental impacts and boost productivity using innovative equipment, technology and infrastructure.
The grant will cover up to 40% of total project costs and can help fund the purchase of:
- Robotic horticulture and arable equipment: driverless tractors, robotic harvesting, robotic crop spraying and weeding
- Robotic animal welfare equipment: automated milking systems, robotic feeding
- Slurry acidification equipment and infrastructure
Grants are also available for advanced ventilation control systems for existing horticultural and livestock buildings and wavelength-specific LED lighting for horticultural crops.
£25 million is available under this first round of the grant scheme, with the minimum grant on offer set at £35,000 (meaning a minimum total project cost of £87,500) and the maximum grant capped at £500,000 per applicant.
Applicants could apply for funding for both a slurry project and a robotics project, but these would need to be applied for separately and the total grant amount awarded would be capped at £500,000 across both projects.
This scheme is part of the government’s Agricultural Transition Plan and will therefore aim to fund priority projects supporting the farming sector to achieve its Net Zero objectives. Any projects using renewable energy will have a competitive advantage over projects using fossil fuel.
The application process consists of two steps. First, the online eligibility checker, which is open until 16 March 2022, enables applicantsto check if their project would be eligible for funding under this grant scheme and how well it scores against the funding priorities. If applicants are successful in this first step, they will receive an invitation from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to prepare and submit a full application, and will have until 14 September 2022 to do so.
Applicants need to be mindful that projects which require planning permission will need to have any consents in place by 31 December 2022 to be eligible for the grant. This can take a while to put in place, so start planning now.
Farmers and landowners will also need to be mindful that the scheme is aimed at bringing about significant changes to farming practices, which could have wider implications for systems and processes across the business.
It will therefore be very important to develop a clear business case for the investment at an early stage. For example, establishing whether the return on investment is going to come from improved outputs or cost savings elsewhere. The Strutt & Parker team is here to help farms and landowners navigate these choices.
The first stage of the application process closes on 16 March 2022.
To find out more about the Improving Farm Productivity grant scheme, contact your local Strutt & Parker office.