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News from SW: Farming innovation fund launched

A new fund to help the region�s farmers and growers develop new and more profitable methods of dealing with on-farm resources has been launched at the Royal Smithfield Christmas Fair. The initial budget for the fund is �5.3 million but there is considerable scope to increase that amount if sufficient good quality proposals are forthcoming.

The fund, which is financed through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), has two categories:

� grants for farmers and growers who want to invest in innovative technologies to improve resource management on farms, and
� grants for research and training organisations, consultants and farmers for new methods of training, advice and demonstration in resource management on farms.

�We have created the fund so that farmers in this region can keep abreast of � or even ahead of � resource management technologies in this country and overseas,� said Rob Hatt, head of food and rural affairs at the South West RDA, which manages the socio-economic regional elements of RDPE.

�It has been developed, in consultation with farming organisations, to back farmers who wish to pioneer and share ideas for profiting from the better use of nutrients, energy, water and waste. Examples could range from novel ways of managing nutrients, for example in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones to new technology to reduce energy use in milking parlours.

�This increasingly important issue of resource management is one of the major planks of the South West Regional Implementation Plan for RDPE. We hope that the Innovation Fund will lead to significant economic and environmental benefits throughout the South West.�

Successful applicants for on-farm investments could receive funding to pay for new specialist equipment and engineering works; plus related fees for things like plans and designs. Limited support will also be available for feasibility studies and other pre-investment costs.

The Innovation Fund was launched at the Royal Smithfield Fair because the livestock sector is a high priority. However, the fund will also be of considerable interest to other sectors such as horticulture.

For both categories of the fund � on-farm investments and knowledge transfer proposals � the basic themes are the same:

� management and use of nutrients, soils and water
� energy conservation and renewable energy
� waste management - modelled on �reduce, reuse, recycle� principles
� tackling air quality issues

Farmers, consultants, training and research organisations who are interested in learning more about the fund should contact the South West Rural Enterprise Gateway on 0845 600 9966 or visit www.sw-ruralgateway.info

The fund forms one part of the RDPE South West Agricultural Resource Management programme. Other elements � to be announced in 2009 � will provide farm advice, demonstration and small capital grants, for improving the management and use of resources.