£70m Agri-Tech Catalyst lists mastitis scheme

Scientists will embark on a new initiative to combat bovine mastitis, as part of a £70m funding scheme to commercialise UK agricultural innovation.

The £4m project to tackle mastitis, which costs the UK dairy industry about £200m each year, is one of 11 launched in the first round of the government’s Agri-Tech Catalyst strategy.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham will lead the project with help from family firm Quality Milk Management Services, specialist dairy cattle vets based in Wells, Somerset.

The project, entitled “Helping combat mastitis in dairy cattle”, aims to reduce the incidents of bovine mastitis by analysing the different bacterial strains within the disease so they can be controlled in the future.

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The first 11 projects will receive £2.8m funding from government, with £1.4m co-investment from industry. They span three key areas of the agriculture sector – crops, livestock, and aquaculture.

Some of the projects will look at new farming techniques, such as cultivation of seaweed, where booming consumer demand for the food far outstrips wild supply.

Others, such as the aforementioned bovine mastitis project, focus on solving problems affecting farmers.

DEFRA agriculture and science minister Lord De Mauley said: “Farmers are the backbone of the £97bn agri-food sector.

“The 11 projects announced today will be invaluable in helping them take advantage of the latest science and innovation, supporting our world-class agricultural technology sector.”

The projects to receive funding include:

• ADAS UK, Sainsbury’s and the University of Manchester to develop a tractor-mounted sensor to reduce the cost and carbon footprint of wheat production

• University of York and Syngenta to investigate a new paradigm in pesticide discovery and optimisation

• Cambivac is working with Moredun Scientific to develop technology to produce vaccines that more effectively control disease (PRRS) in swine

• Exosect is working with EsEye to examine harnessing natural fungi to control insect and mite pests in grain storage.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) chief executive Jackie Hunter said the projects would help find new, sustainable ways of feeding a growing population.

He added: “These exciting new projects will turn research into practice, helping to deliver new sources of food, boost current harvests and find new food production methods with less environmental impact.”

The strategy, which was set up by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the BBSRC, aims to help commercialise UK agricultural innovation.

Businesses and researchers with ideas that have the potential to solve global agricultural challenges can now apply for the second round of Catalyst funding.

Details on how to apply for round two of the Agri-Tech Catalyst can be found online

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