Farming Futures: Nutrient Management Phase 1 – Industrial Research

Key Features

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £15 million across the two strands of this competition, to develop innovative solutions for nutrient management. This funding is from the Farming Futures R&D Fund.

Programme:     Defra

Award:     Share of up to £15 million

Opens: 29th May 2024

Closes: 24th Jul 2024

! This scheme is opening soon


The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) will invest up to £15 million in innovation projects.

This funding is part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme, which is a partnership with and delivered by Innovate UK.


The aim of this competition is to fund collaborative research and development projects with ambitious solutions to address the challenges related to nutrient management in soils and water associated with agricultural livestock and crop production. The solutions provided will enable sustainable and resilient farming.

Nutrient management involves using nutrients (both organic and manufactured) as efficiently as possible to maximise plant uptake, crop growth and yield. It also includes applying nutrients where and when they can be best utilised by plants, thereby combating run-off and soil erosion. Good nutrient management should increase productivity whilst protecting the environment by minimising nutrient loss.

Projects must develop ambitious new solutions that:

  • improve soil and water based nitrogen and phosphate nutrient management
  • provide a positive impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions
  • are applicable to manage nutrients from farm crop waste, from farm animal waste, or from commercial chemical and artificial fertilisers
  • consider industrial and domestic wastes that are already used in agriculture, but the focus is on farm wastes (new waste streams are not included)
  • lead to improvement of ground and river water quality
  • reduce nitrogen, phosphate and sediment run-off and pollution

Some examples of approaches that may be supported under this theme include but are not restricted to, developing products including:

  • novel organic material treatment technologies, for example, slurry concentration or additives
  • technologies that allow for more cost-effective transport of products derived from organic materials, for example, pelletisation or dewatering
  • extraction or partitioning technologies for key nutrients from organic material, for example, macro and micronutrients
  • technologies for the removal of contaminants
  • improving our understanding of bio stimulants, and how increased nutrient uptake could reduce amounts of nutrient applied to crops
  • emerging technologies to treat manures and create incomes streams from these products, for example, gas capture, fuel pellets, growing media, building materials
  • developing innovative spreading and application technologies to increase productivity and accuracy and reduce environmental impact
  • adapted fertilisers which reduce risk of leaching and run off
  • improving water quality through recovery of waste materials

Projects could develop ambitious solutions that:

  • process farm waste to extract biomaterials or add value if this reduces the nutrient load to soil and water
  • process farm waste to extract or to optimise nutrient levels of Nitrogen and Phosphate
  • enable better targeted application of nutrients and avoid surplus application
  • improve handling, treatment and storage of on–farm wastes
  • improve plant nutrient demand and uptake techniques, including bio stimulants
  • improve anaerobic digestion processes and improve the processing of digestate to optimise it’s nutrient quality for accurate and precise distribution
  • improve ability and efficiency to transport nutrients from farm waste from areas of surplus to areas of demand
  • provide opportunities through livestock feed and diet amendments to reduce nutrients in waste streams
  • provide opportunities through circular economy approaches to recover nutrients and useful products from farm waste

Portfolio approach

Defra want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, markets, technological maturities, regions, scope areas, research categories and agricultural sectors. Defra call this a portfolio approach.

Specific Themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following:


  • monogastric
  • ruminant


  • broadacre: cereals, root crops, grassland
  • horticulture: field based and specialist growers
  • fruit: top fruit, stone fruit and soft fruit
  • vineyard
  • protected cropping: glass and polytunnel systems
  • controlled environment and vertical farming systems

Your project could focus on technologies including, but not limited to the following:

  • automation and machines
  • sensing devices and analysis systems to manage and control a wider process
  • animal and plant breeding including precision breeding of plants
  • soil, water or air treatments
  • waste treatment processes
  • storage methods or treatment of farm waste to enable efficient transport to other regions
  • artificial fertilisers and application methods
  • processes to extract specific nutrients
  • processes to turn farm waste into useful materials
  • processes to turn farm waste to energy


Your project must:

  • have total costs between £500,000 and £1 million
  • start by 1 January 2025
  • end by 31 December 2026 for 24 month duration projects
  • end by 31 December 2027 for 36 month duration projects
  • last between 24 and 36 months
  • be able to demonstrate how the project will benefit farmers or growers in England
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • collaborate with other UK registered organisations

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in IFS. They are responsible for entering their own project costs in the application.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.

Non-funded partners

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

A business can only lead on one application in each strand of this competition.

A business can also be included as a collaborator in two further applications in each of the 2 strands of the competition.

If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications across both strands of the competition.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations, as well as compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


Defra are not funding projects that:

  • are not addressing on farm utilisation of nutrients in plant or livestock sectors
  • are forestry specific
  • are novel food production systems
  • are equine specific
  • involve wild caught fisheries
  • involve aquaculture for fish production or human consumption
  • are for the production of crops or plants for medicinal or pharmaceutical use
  • do not benefit farmers or growers in England
  • are circular energy production specific
  • are intended to process materials from new waste streams that are not currently used as soil nutrient sources in UK agriculture

Defra cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example, giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example, giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

Funding Costs

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has allocated £15 million across two strands of this competition to fund innovation projects. This competition is in partnership with and delivered by Innovate UK.

Funding for this competition will be in the form of a grant.

A minimum of 50% of the total grant amount requested by farmers or growers must be allocated to farmers or growers geographically based in England.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

The balance between your total project costs and the amount of grant awarded must be funded by the organisation receiving the grant.

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them. Of that 50% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.