Sainsbury’s R&D grants aim to boost British supply

Sainsbury’s has awarded £1m worth of grant funding to 13 research and development projects aimed at transferring agricultural research into the field, and meeting its target of doubling sales of British produce by 2020.

The fund was open to 2,500 of Sainsbury’s British farmers and growers, many of whom have collaborated with universities, vets and industry researchers for their research projects. Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s commercial director, said improving R&D and technology use on farm was essential if the retailer was to hit its target of doubling its British produce 2020.

Projects awarded funding include:

Controlling pig weight through post-weaning management tools

This will look at different management approaches to finishing pigs of differing weights. Pigs will be routinely weighed to determine how feed efficiency and finishing times can be improved. David Fulton, from Sainsbury’s pork steering group, will host the project on his farm in Northern Ireland and will develop a set of performance figures for different management approaches.

Evaluation of faecal egg count EBVs to reduce egg counts in sheep

Another farmer-driven project, this will establish whether estimated breeding values (EBVs) in maternal sheep lines could help determine breeding potential for worm resistance. If this heritability is established, sheep farmers could breed greater resistance to parasitic worms, enabling improved flock weight gain, increased lamb finishing rates and improved performance of ewes.

Diagnostics and decision support systems for management of internal parasites

This project will help roll out new technology, initially to Sainsbury’s sheep farmers, that will make sampling of faecal egg counts easier and bring more diagnostic power and management through vets and advisers direct to farm. The new kit will capture images from faecal samples via a USB “microscope” and digitise the image for online laboratory analysis. The technology will help farmers manage parasites more easily so targeted and selective treatments can be made.

This is the second round of funding from the retailer’s agricultural research and development fund. Last year’s funding projects included research into the genetics of sows most suited to free farrowing and the use of variable nitrogen applications to wheat.

More on this topic

Farming revolution needed to keep UK competitive

See more