Making the most of machinery and tech grants

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31 July 2023
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As applications open in December, show offers the chance to be prepared.

WITH a plethora of machinery, technology and productivity grants expected to re-open in December 2023/January 2024, the Midlands Machinery Show is well timed for farmers looking to make the most of these.

On hand to give advice about the various grants likely to be available will be property and business consultants Brown & Co, exhibiting at the Show. Tom Cheer, agricultural business consultant at the firm, looks at the options.

“The main grant relevant to the Show is the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund (FETF) Productivity and Slurry, which is very similar to the old Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme and aims to improve productivity and efficiency on farm. Applications are online, selecting items from an eligible list and getting paid a fixed amount of grant no matter how much is spent on the item,” he said.

FETF has had two rounds so far and is expected to open for a third in December 2023/January 2024. Direct drills, camera guided equipment, liquid fertiliser applicators and small seed drills for cover and/or companion crops, some on display at the Midlands Machinery Show, including from KRM, Grange Machinery, Sands Agricultural Machinery, Househam sprayers and Knight sprayers, have proved popular.

“For a 6m direct drill in round two, the amount of grant awarded was £18,720; if it was capable of applying fertiliser simultaneously it was £25,000," said Tom. “For N-Sensors it was £6,675 and for camera-guided inter-row vegetable weeders, a 6m machine attracted £22,745.”

The list of eligible items varies from round to round but is usually added to, with the odd item removed, Tom said. “The maximum FETF grant is £25,000 but farmers can choose as many items as they like to meet this amount. It is worth bearing in mind that for each item, a minimum specification must be met which the Rural Payments Agency is incredibly strict about.”

The grant helps farmers to access more technical machinery at a lower cost, says KRM managing director Mike Britton. “KRM machinery’s tine drill SMP model will be on show at the Midlands Machinery Show and has so far been eligible for the FETF grant. It promotes regenerative farming, moving the soil less, leading to less release of carbon.

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“The grant has also covered KRM Calibrators – control systems for fertiliser spreading and variable rate application and KRM Patchwork GPS section control. Both are driving efficiency, meaning farmers use less fertiliser on the field, and less fertiliser is wasted through run-off, with environmental benefits.”

There is also the Animal Health and Welfare aspect of FETF as well as larger productivity grants which come under the Farming Transformation Fund (FTF) and include: Water Management – for building reservoirs and irrigation equipment; Slurry Infrastructure; Adding Value to Agri Foods; and Improving Farm Productivity.

Tom said: “Improving Farm Productivity is about bringing robotics on farm like robotic harvesters, sprayers and weeders, aimed at the vegetable industry. But also autonomous tractors and robotic milking and feeding systems – anything with a camera to sense its surroundings and decision-making capabilities.”

There are also opportunities with the Adding Value grant aimed at packhouse equipment like optical graders.

Applying for FTF grants is a two-stage process involving an ‘expression of interest’ or ‘online checker’, followed up by a full application. The grant accounts for 40% of the equipment cost with 60% match funding from the farmer. The minimum grant available is £35,000 and the maximum, £500,000.

Currently closed to new applications, the FTF is expected to re-open in December 2023/January 2024.

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