The voucher provision for the Wageningen University & Research (WUR) Farm of the Future agro-ecological research project attracts a lot of attention. Over fifty domestic and foreign businesses have applied to test an innovation or new technology for circular agriculture over the last few months. Four applicants, all of whom develop autonomous field robots, have received a voucher. This enables them to use the facilities, expertise and support of the Farm of the Future. New applications are still welcome.
The voucher provision is an initiative of Kansen voor West, a collaborative alliance of Flevoland, Noord Holland, Zuid Holland and Utrecht provinces. Together, they have made € 1.470.000 in European EFRO-funding available for this year. The remunerated projects all relate to autonomous robots and tractors that can be deployed for weed control, potato storage and other tasks.
Autonomous tractor on tracks
The Farm of the Future research project collaborates with farmers and other partners to reach viable solutions for the challenges crop farmers face. By using mixed cultivation methods and fixed lanes, biodiversity is increased while soil compaction is reduced. One of the businesses that were awarded a research voucher is the Dutch company AgXeed. Their autonomous Agbot is fitted with tracks, which reduces pressure on the soil. ‘By working autonomously, Agbot can carry our processing tasks efficiently, eliminating the need for heavy combine machinery. Through research on the Farm of the Future, we aim to demonstrate that Agbot is uniquely suited for the future of farming and will result in a better cultivation outcome’, says Rienk Landstra of AgXeed.
Room for new applications
‘The applications we received are extremely diverse, both in terms of their level of innovation and in terms of their areas of focus, the domains and countries of origin’, says Marleen Riemers of Wageningen University & Research. More applications will be remunerated shortly, but there is also still room for new applications within the budget. ‘It would be great if we use up our 1.5-million-euro budget by the end of the first half of this year.’
Three types of vouchers are available within the provision:
- The viability voucher can be applied to test the technical and economic viability of an innovation idea using the facilities and expertise available at the Farm of the Future.
- The R&D voucher can be applied to cover the external costs the applicant incurs to develop and test a prototype in laboratory and field conditions.
- The pilot voucher is used to test and validate the use of an innovation in practice using the facilities and expertise available at the Farm of the Future.
Want to learn more about the research vouchers and what they have to offer? Check out the Farm of the Future website.