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News ‘AgTech’ researchers step closer to £15m funding

Researchers working to improve access to safe and nutritious food have been shortlisted to potentially receive £15 million funding

The project focuses on vertical farming
Image: The project focuses on vertical farming

There is huge interest in AgTech and being able to grow food indoors, especially in countries where the climate makes it hard to grow crops outside. It is more reliable, cost effective and doesn’t use pesticides so it is safer and healthier.

Professor Elhadj Benkhelifa,Principal Investigator

Staffordshire University is part of a transnational consortium led by Zayed University and involving 20 partners from universities, industry and government bodies who have been named finalists in a competitive funding program.

The group were shortlisted from hundreds of entries in the Virtual Research Institutes Program which could see them receive up to £15 million over five years.

The international competition is organised by the UAE Department of Education and Knowledge and targets sectors of strategic importance to Abu Dhabi including Sustainability, Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Materials, Biotechnology and Food Security.

Experts in Computing, Engineering and Business from Staffordshire University are addressing the Food Security grand challenge, which has become a top priority of all nations amid crises like the Covid-19 pandemic. The interdisciplinary project also includes partners from top companies IBM, Microsoft and the Vertical Farming Institute.

The team are focusing on Agricultural Technology or ‘AgTech’ where advanced technologies and business models will be developed to improve yield, efficiency, and profitability of food crops. In particular, the project is exploring vertical farming which sees crops grown in vertically stacked layers in a controlled indoor environment.

Professor Elhadj Benkhelifa, the Principal Investigator from Staffordshire University, said: “There is huge interest in AgTech and being able to grow food indoors, especially in countries where the climate makes it hard to grow crops outside. It is more reliable, cost effective and doesn’t use pesticides so it is safer and healthier.

“It is important for Staffordshire University to actively engage in such strategic transnational research partnerships and showcase its world class research. If this project wins then it will be the largest project looking at advanced AgTech for indoor and vertical farming.”

The shortlisted finalists will submit their final proposals in September with winners being announced by the end of the year.

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