Further plans for a farming centre of excellence to boost productivity while enhancing the environment have been unveiled by the government.

Senior figures from the industry gathered at DEFRA offices in Westminster on Monday (19 May) to hear more about ambitions for the centre of excellence and the bidding process. The centre is seen as key to delivery of the government’s £160m Agri-Tech Strategy.

Published last summer, the UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies committed £90m to establish a number of centres for agricultural innovation. It was agreed that the first would be the Centre for Agricultural Informatics and Sustainability Metrics.

See also: Government unveils £160m ‘agri-tech’ strategy

Industry leaders are keen to increase productivity by harnessing the growing amount of data available about factors that influence agricultural productivity, including soils, nutrition and the weather. But managing and accessing that data brings its own challenges.

The government has pledged to invest up to £10m of capital funding in the venture over five years. It expects the industry to match this investment, helping a consortium of publicly and privately funded organisations, and that small and medium-sized businesses will play an influential role.

DEFRA science minister Lord De Mauley said: “The UK’s world-class science and technology sector provides a strong base for improvements in agricultural research. We now have more data than ever before on the factors that influence farming.”

He added: “It is vitally important that we manage this information effectively so it can be used to increase productivity and improve the environment. The new Centre of Excellence for Agri-Informatics will help to make this ambition a reality.”

The process to identify and select that consortium is being managed by a technology strategy board. It will be run in two stages. The initial outline proposal stage is open for applications now and closes at noon on 18 June.

Lord De Mauley said: “I want this new centre to be co-designed with the best industry and academic expertise. That’s why I’d welcome applications from across the science, farming and food sectors.”