£16m investment to secure protein supplies

Nearly £16m is to be invested in 29 research projects designed to help British farmers secure protein supplies and produce meat and milk more efficiently.

The Technology Strategy Board has announced a list of projects it will fund in collaboration with DEFRA, the Scottish Government, the Global Food Security Programme and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The projects, which are all business-led, will focus on one or both of the following interrelated areas:     

– Increasing the domestic supply of sustainably produced vegetable protein for feeding farmed animals, including land and marine based aquaculture, and

– Increasing the efficiency of production and sustainability of domestically supplied animal and fish protein for food.

There will be research and development in areas such as improving protein supply and utilisation from grassland, improving protein production from beef cattle while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing protein supply from arable crops.

There will also be work addressing key issues in aquaculture to improve production efficiency and to investigate alternative high protein sources for animal feed.

Iain Gray, TSB chief executive, said while global demand for animal products was on the increase, the UK faced a shortfall in vegetable protein production.

“Relying on imports poses both supply and economic risks, so developing sustainable protein production in the UK, resulting in an increase in sustainable supplies of both vegetable and animal protein, will ensure that these concerns are addressed.”

DEFRA minister Jim Paice said as the demand for food grows there would be more opportunities for UK farmers.

“These innovative projects will help the industry produce meat and fish more efficiently, boosting both economic growth and food security.”

Scotland’s rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead added: “This funding capitalises on our scientific strengths and helps meet our objective in supporting food producers and suppliers in order to feed our country – and the world – in the coming years.”

The Technology Strategy Board will invest a total of £7.9m, DEFRA £5m, BBSRC £2.5m and the Scottish Government £500,000.