• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £500k will be available for smaller-scale feasibility studies in helping businesses develop innovative measurement technologies for efficient agri-food systems.

  • Programme: Feasibility studies

  • Award: Up to £500k

  • Opens: 18 Mar 2013, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 24 Apr 2013, 12:00

  • Closes: 01 May 2013, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Measurement technologies for agri-food systems (Feasibility Study)


The Technology Strategy Board, together with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the Scottish Government, are to invest up to £8.75m in helping businesses develop innovative measurement technologies for efficient agri-food systems. 
This will primarily involve collaborative R&D projects, with up to £500k of the total funding available for relevant feasibility studies. 
The focus of the competition will be on developing new tools for use in the field, to enhance: 
  • understanding and application of genomic information 
  • management decision-making 
  • data capture and integration throughout the value chain. 
Project proposals must be business-led and collaborative. We are primarily seeking to fund industrial research, with a business partner attracting 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs). We expect collaborative R&D projects to range in size from £500k to £1.5m, with the maximum total project size being around £2m. We may consider larger projects, but applicants should discuss this with us before making their application. 
Up to £500k will be available for smaller-scale feasibility studies. These too should be collaborative, and project size can range from around £25k to £100k. Funding will depend upon the type of project participant – business partners can attract public funding of up to 65% of their project costs (75% for SMEs). Projects should explore relevant and relatively high-risk technical opportunities for further development by industry. 
The collaborative R&D element of this competition is a two-stage process; the feasibility studies element involves a single-stage process of application and selection. Both open on 18 March 2013. The deadline for submission of proposals is noon on 1 May 2013


The World Bank has estimated that global meat production needs to increase by 85% and cereal production by 50% by 2030 to meet food demands (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2008). The world's population is expected to increase from around 7bn today to 8.3bn by 2030; the UK population is also forecast to rise over the same period – from 61m to 70m. 
Increased demand for food is compounded by greater affluence in developing countries, which is driving growth in demand for meat and dairy products. This in turn requires better productivity from the crop sector if it is to be sustainable. There is a need to improve production efficiency across all aspects of food production. 
The Sustainable Agriculture & Food Innovation Platform (SAF-IP) was launched in October 2009 to help UK businesses develop innovative technologies, production systems and supply chain solutions to address these challenges, increasing the productivity of the UK agri-food sector while reducing its environmental impact. Working closely with our co-funders, the SAF-IP will commit up to £90m to relevant projects from 2009 to 2014. 


Ongoing research in plant and animal breeding, and the use of advanced genomic selection, helps to address the challenge of rising demand for food. Genomic data is increasingly abundant, but all too often underexploited. Understanding, measuring and predicting the genetic potential of plants and animals and the way they interact with the environment in which they are grown and produced, is a significant challenge. 

Data collection and interpretation, particularly of complex plant and animal traits under commercial management conditions, is very important. Finding better ways of selecting plants and animals based on this ‘phenotypic expression' of genotypes can help improve productivity and enable resources to be used more efficiently. 
There is an opportunity for the UK to develop innovative technology which captures the value of the ongoing investment in and proliferation of genomics, and delivers tangible economic benefits to businesses in this important sector. 
Sensors and measurement technologies of all types will be crucial to this process, which will also require involvement from business sectors that perhaps have not engaged before with the agricultural community. 
This competition is highly relevant to the SAF-IP. Combined with other measures, the resulting products should increase the commercial productivity of crop and livestock systems (including aquaculture), and lead to improved resource efficiency and waste reduction. 


The scope of the competition is expected to cover, but is not limited to, improving the identification and measurement of key production and quality traits, by developing tools, technologies and systems which will allow: 

  • better understanding and application of genomic information 
  • better management decision-making in the field 
  • data capture and integration throughout the value chain. 
Given the relatively wide scope of this competition, there are opportunities to develop a wide range of tools, technologies, products and/or services that can be deployed across the food supply chain. 
Proposals should seek to enhance the pace at which desired quality and production traits are identified, selected and delivered in crop and livestock production systems. This will include the way in which such traits are observed or reflected in the store or retail environment. 
We also believe that this should include environmental sensing in complex systems, and may require the collection and measurement of data representing proxy traits as possible indicators of production potential, for example NO2 emissions as a proxy for nitrogen use efficiency in crops, or CH4 emissions from ruminants as a measure of feed conversion efficiency. 
Examples may include, but are not limited to: 

Plant/plant environment and whole crop system sensors 

  • root and crop canopy development 
  • nutrient and water use efficiency 
  • disease/ stress tolerance and resistance 
  • yield and quality prediction under differing environments and management systems 
  • optimising commercial versus biological yield. 

Livestock and animal (including aquaculture) production environments 

  • fertility/fecundity and neonatal survivability 
  • feed conversion efficiency 
  • carcass/milk quality measurement and optimisation 
  • identifying disease resistance/ tolerance 
  • functional/management traits – optimising animal genotypes for differing production systems
  • improving animal welfare 
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact. 

Storage, processing and retail environments – crop and livestock product sensing 

  • pest and disease tolerance in store 
  • ripening characteristics 
  • shelf life 
  • maturation and quality 
  • process yield and wastage 
  • quality, flavour, texture and nutritional characteristics 
  • food safety. 

Funding allocation and project details

Feasibility studies 

Up to £500k will be available for the smaller-scale feasibility studies. These too should be collaborative and business-led, with the projects ranging in size from around £25k to £100k of eligible costs. Funding will depend upon the type of participant but business partners can attract public funding of up to 65% of their project costs (75% for SMEs). Feasibility study projects should explore relevant and relatively high-risk technical opportunities for further development by industry. They should be completed within 12 months. 
Applicants must establish relationships with appropriate experts, such as crop and livestock specialists, farmers, academics, breeders of plants and animals (including fish) and electronic sensor and photonic manufacturers, to ensure that their project proposals are in scope and that any resulting product or service is fit for purpose. These experts can be consortia members, sub-contractors or advisers. 
Applications are assessed on individual merit by an independent panel of experts. The Technology Strategy Board reserves the right to apply a portfolio approach to projects across the different subject areas that this competition covers, subject to applications meeting the required quality threshold. 

Application Process

The feasibility study competition is a single-stage process of application and selection. 

The competition will open on 18 March 2013, and applicants must register by 24 April 2013. Noon on 1 May 2013 is the deadline for feasibility study applications. Register for the feasibility study application process

Further information is available in our Guidance for Applicants and at a Measurement Technologies for Efficient Agrifood Systems Competition Briefing Webinar on 22 March 2013.

The Bioscience, Electronic Sensor and Photonic, and Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Networks will be providing further information and support for this competition, as well as offering assistance with consortia-building.   

More information

To apply for this competition you must first register with us.

Read the supporting information you before you apply, including the Guidance for Applicants and the application form. 
Competition helpline: 0300 321 4357 


As part of the application process all applicants are asked to submit a public description of the project. This should adequately describe the project but not disclose any information that may impact on intellectual property, is confidential or commercially sensitive. 

The titles of successful projects, names of organisations, amounts awarded and the public description will be published once the award is confirmed as final. Information about unsuccessful project applications will remain confidential and will not be made public.

Key dates

  • Competition opens: 18 March 2013 
  • Applicant Briefing day: 22 March 2013
  • Registration deadline for applications: 24 April 2013 (noon) 
  • Application deadline: 1 May 2013 (noon) 
  • Stage 2 opens for collaborative R&D applications (by invitation only): 20 May 2013 
  • Deadline for Stage 2 collaborative R&D applications: 19 June 2013 (noon) 
  • Feasibility study applicants informed: 28 June 2013 
  • Collaborative R&D applicants informed: 29 July 2013