Rothamsted Research is launching a new fund to support innovative on-farm research – with all projects to be thought up, co-designed, and run by farmers.
Part funded by AHDB, the aim of FarmInn is to provide real world, scientifically robust solutions to the challenges currently faced by UK agriculture.
Project leader Dr Ian Shield said: “We all know the problems the industry faces, but no one is more acutely aware than farmers themselves. To tackle these challenges, farmers need new knowledge that can be implemented in the field. FarmInn gives them a chance to find solutions to the things that matter most to the agricultural community.”
It is anticipated that about seven projects will be funded in the first instance, with each farmer receiving up to £3000 to cover the eligible costs of running their trial.
“Any proposal that addresses the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of farm businesses will be considered,” says Dr Shield. “We want to hear from the farmers themselves.”
The FarmInn scheme is unique in that it will also provide free access to Rothamsted’s researchers and facilities, by pairing each farmer with an expert in the field, he added.
“Farmers are by nature great innovators, continually striving for new and better ways of doing things. They also possess a huge wealth of expertise, and when it comes to their own land, an unrivalled level of knowledge.
“We aim to support that spirit of discovery by taking away some of the financial risks of trying something new, and by providing them with specialist support in terms of designing experiments, collecting data and analysing results.”
Farmers are being asked to submit their idea via a short, simple application form and projects will be chosen by a panel of Rothamsted staff, who will then assign a suitable scientist to work with the applicant to produce a project plan.
FarmInn will work closely with the Innovative Farmers scheme which already has an established network of farmers and growers running on-farm trials.
Dr Kate Pressland, Programme Manager of Innovative Farmers said: “The two initiatives will complement each other greatly, we anticipate some of our Field Labs graduating to FarmInn to give them the potential to be scaled up and more rigorously tested.
“Likewise, some FarmInn applications may be referred to our scheme for proof of concept testing or as a pilot to more detailed research.”
Innovative Farmers will have representation on the FarmInn Steering Group along with AHDB, Agri-Tech East, LEAF, and the NFU. The FarmInn Steering Group will allocate appropriate resources once the project plan has been completed.
Tim Isaac, Head of Arable Knowledge Exchange at AHDB, said: “FarmInn is a great strategic fit for AHDB as it champions our preferred farmer led approach while focusing on farm-based trials as the key to unlocking improvements in productivity.
“Together with our involvement in Innovative Farmers and our own network of farms, this initiative will help in the faster dissemination of learning that the industry rightly demands. Furthermore, by combining science with practice it should also help to identify new approaches that are both robust and relevant.”
According to Dr Shield, once up and running, the projects’ results will be presented via on-farm demonstrations, websites and social media, as well as an annual conference.
He said: “Along with AHDB, we will make sure the findings are shared as widely as possible, so that these real-world, proven solutions can be implemented on farms throughout the country.
“Linking Rothamsted Research scientists with farmers who are pro-active and innovative will build better relationships and create a dialogue to influence future research projects.”
More information on the FarmInn scheme, including how to apply, can be found at: https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/farminn