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Fund for on-Farm INNovative research (FarmINN)

Project number 21510025

Lead partner Rothamsted Research

Industry partners LEAF, Soil Association/Innovative Farmers, AgriTech East, NFU, farmer stakeholders

Start date January 2019

End date December 2019

AHDB funding £45,000

Total funding £95,000

The challenge

Change is an essential part of efficient, productive and sustainable farm businesses.

Increasingly, many farmers test how one way of working compares with another before making a change. Such tests can yield useful information on the value of certain practices in unique (e.g. rotational, climatic and economic) circumstances. As a result, this process of gathering evidence can help ensure the best decisions are made. For robust conclusions to be drawn, however, it is important that basic research principles are followed.

AHDB has long history of investing in scientific research. In recent years, AHDB has encouraged on-farm testing to help extend research into practice (most notably through its Strategic and Monitor Farm programmes).

The project

This project provides a mechanism, including funds, to support farmers interested in participating in innovative on-farm research. The FarmINN fund is open to any farmer with a project idea that addresses the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of farm businesses.

Part-funded by AHDB, it is anticipated that about seven projects will be funded in 2019, with some of these focused on cereal and oilseed production systems. To apply for funds, an application form (available at rothamsted.ac.uk/farminn) needs to be completed and submitted to the Rothamsted Research Advisory Board.

If the application is deemed unsuitable, it will either be rejected or recommended for reapplication with amendments. If it is deemed suitable, it will be developed into a project with a Rothamsted Research scientist. The scientist will provide specialist support to assist with experiment design, as well as data collection and analysis. The final project plan (and funding) will be approved by the FarmINN Steering Group, which includes AHDB, Agri-Tech East, LEAF, INNovative Farmers, the NFU and Rothamsted Research. Each farmer will receive up to £3000 to cover the eligible costs of running their trial.

FarmINN will work closely with the Innovative Farmers scheme (innovativefarmers.org) and its established network of farmer-led on-farm trials – called ‘Field Labs’. It is anticipated that FarmINN funds could be used to scale up and test Field Lab trials more rigorously. Conversely, some FarmINN applications may be referred to INNovative Farmers for proof of concept testing or as a pilot for more detailed research.

Data will be collected, checked and analysed throughout each project. At the end of each project, a report will be made available on the Rothamsted Research website.

The benefits

As each project is proposed by a farmer, FarmINN will deliver rapid solutions based on real-world challenges. Through supporting experiment design, as well as data collection and analysis, FarmInn will reduce the risks associated with conducting on-farm research. It will also increase scientific robustness and the chances of producing meaningful results.

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