Farmers in all countries in the world face many challenges. Advances in agricultural technology have been pivotal in the development of resilient food systems. To maintain and further improve agricultural productivity into the future, farmers, researchers and businesses across the world need access to innovative technology. These technologies include improved crop varieties, veterinary medicines and other inputs that must be tailored to specific farming environments. In many countries, especially the developing countries where DFID works, national support for agricultural research and development is lacking, and access to international expertise is limited.
DFID has been involved in the Agri-Tech Strategy from the start to enable the skills, knowledge and experience in the agri-tech sector in the UK and internationally to contribute to increasing agricultural productivity and to stimulate innovation in developing countries. As part of this commitment, DFID supports the Agri-Tech Catalyst; the fund that aims to stimulate the development and adoption of new technologies to increase agricultural productivity in the UK, emerging markets and developing countries and thereby contribute to global food security.
Since launching in October 2013, there have been two rounds of Catalyst funding and the competition for Round 3 awards will be announced soon. So far, four projects that are focused on developing country agriculture are being supported by DFID. Each of these projects brings together UK, international and developing country partners from the academic and business community. Three of the four projects focus on the staple crops grown by millions of small-holder farmers in Africa; their impact could be enormous. The four projects are:
• The Hybrid Wheat for Food Security project that aims to establish wheat hybrid testing in South Asia and the UK utilising an innovative, non-GMO, non-chemically based, hybridisation system (led by KWS).
• Pearl Millet for Health Benefits will explore genetic variation in pearl millet to understand how this crop can be developed further to ultimately produce improved bread products for individuals with diabetes (led by Aberystwyth University).
• A project in Nepal will develop novel genetic markers that can be exploited in marker-assisted backcrossing for disease resistance in rice (led by Bangor University).
• A project to demonstrate and commercialise a pheromone-based male and female ‘attract and kill’ system for the control of fruit flies in Asia and Africa (led by Russell IPM).
DFID also supports a number of other initiatives seeking to find new ways of sharing agricultural innovation with farmers in developing countries - including AgResults, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines and Harvest Plus. Our ambition is that DFID’s support of the Agri-Tech Catalyst will generate new solutions for developing country agriculture. We will only know whether this ambition is achieved as the projects start to deliver results, but the early stages of the Catalyst certainly look promising. If you want to make your own contribution to developing or applying agricultural technology to developing country agriculture, then pitch your ideas into the next rounds of Agri-Tech Catalyst funding. We look forward to seeing them.
More details about DFID funded research can be found here.