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More investment is needed to harness the full benefits of technology for food and farming, say business leaders. Nearly half of all decision-makers in... New technology ‘key to farming future’

More investment is needed to harness the full benefits of technology for food and farming, say business leaders.

Nearly half of all decision-makers in the combined agri-food industries (48%) say innovation or investment is lacking in their supply chain – with one in four farm business leaders describing new technology as a top priority for their company.

Key priorities

The findings were published to coincide with the launch of the UK Agri-Tech Centre – the new single body formed from the merger of the UK’s three agri-tech centres focusing on crops, livestock and engineering.

The UK Agri-Tech Centre commissioned the research to better understand the priorities of agri-food businesses – and help inform its strategy as it strives to increase agri-innovation at unprecedented levels.

UK Agri-Tech Centre chief executive Phil Bicknell said: “Agri-tech can unlock solutions to many of the major issues facing the agriculture and food sector and the UK’s food security challenges.

“We can now help more businesses access funding and play a key role in de-risking investment for private funders by strengthening the connections between science and R&D to deliver an adoption pathway for commercial solutions.”

Attracting investment

More than half of UK food industry businesses (51%) say adopting new technologies is a key business priority for the next five years. But 39% of R&D and technology leaders saying access to funding is restricting take-up.

This was followed by a lack of resource and time (38%) and attracting investment (27%) as the top three most common barriers to agri-tech development and adoption – something the UK Agri-Tech Centre aims to encourage.

The UK Agri-Tech Centre will be a gateway for funding and investment through its strategic programmes: Connect, Inspire, Grow and Adopt, These aim to provide a framework for accelerating innovation by taking solutions from idea to impact.

Artificial intelligence

Growth and expansion of their core business is the key business priority for 58% of agriculture and food business leaders over the next five years. This is followed by becoming more sustainable (40%).

Some 38% of food businesses want to explore new technologies relating to food security with 31% looking at resilient food systems. Meanwhile, 28% want to explore the potential of AI and machine learning to support their business.

Just over one in four (26%) agri-food businesses said they wanted to explore robotics and automation. This was one of the best-performing agri-tech areas in 2023, with global investment increasing 9% last year.