AHDB call for full proposals on research and knowledge exchange

P2110377: AHDB/BBSRC Initiative: Enabling the agricultural transition to net-zero through BBSRC’s Farm Sustainability Fund


Farmers and growers in the UK face increasing pressure on production including the threats posed by climate change, pests, weeds and diseases. There are a range of ways that businesses can increase their resilience to these threats but farmers require credible, accessible and practical information on the benefits, costs and best ways to implement new and innovative ways of farming.


This initiative between AHDB and BBSRC will address critical research questions, identified as gaps in knowledge by the What Works Centre for Agriculture and Horticulture. We wish to invite research and appropriate knowledge exchange activities to test approaches and develop strategies to improve the resilience of UK agricultural and horticultural businesses.


AHDB and BBSRC will work in partnership to support approximately 10 projects of around £50k and three months in duration. Applicants are encouraged to consider how these activities may generate preliminary findings that underpin high-quality proposals to UKRI grant mechanisms and enable access to other funding opportunities. It is anticipated that the projects may also enable researchers to engage more effectively with AHDB and UKRI funding for research and knowledge exchange.


AHDB will lead the dissemination of the research outputs to farmers and growers, providing a direct pathway to impact for the industry, through its knowledge exchange network, Farm Excellence Platform and resilience support service.



AHDB and its partners are developing a What Works Centre for Agriculture and Horticulture. In the UK there is a network of 13 established What Works Centres. The centres provide guidance to their stakeholders based on best available evidence. In the first instance the What Works Centre for Agriculture and Horticulture will focus on Net Zero, demonstrating how farming methods and outputs can reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon storage.


The initial focus of the What Works Centre for Agriculture and Horticulture has been the publication of a series of rapid evidence assessments on farming practices:


Accessible summaries of evidence and practical on-farm demonstrations of how to apply farming practices will be presented through the What Works Toolkit (See Annex 1). Clear and concise practical explanations will be paired with real world, on-farm, demonstration of how to (and not to) adopt the new practices.


The call will support the development of the What Works Centre for Agriculture and Horticulture and is inviting researchers to address gaps in the evidence base by conducting and supporting primary research.



The financial contribution is made by BBSRC and therefore awards are only available to researchers eligible for UKRI Research Council funding, see guidance: https://www.ukri.org/funding/how-to-apply/eligibility/.


Further guidance on eligibility and collaboration with industry and other users is available in the BBSRC grants guide: https://bbsrc.ukri.org/documents/grants-guide/. Applicants may also contact: research@ahdb.org.uk with any queries.


Initiative management

This initiative will be managed by AHDB and BBSRC, who will work together to make the awards. AHDB will be responsible for monitoring the delivery and outcomes of awarded projects. AHDB will disseminate the findings to farmers and growers across the UK, directly and through partner organisations.


Call and scope

Eligible researchers are invited to submit applications that test approaches and develop strategies to improve the resilience of UK agricultural and horticultural businesses and could include, but are not limited to, the associated topics below:


  • Improving the sustainability of cropping systems. Removing genetic and agronomic constraints to sustainable production, addressing barriers to integration into the bio- and circular-economy, and improving the sustainability of the arable rotation, such as through the use of leys and cover crops.
  • Management of organic materials. The agricultural sector seeks solutions and approaches to reducing the emissions and impacts resulting from the use of manures and slurries, including during spreading, and by exploring treatments such as slurry acidification, dewatering, and other treatments.
  • Improving the performance of grassland. This includes developing varieties with traits relating to sustainability and enabling practices such as direct drilling grass into arable stubbles, under sowing grass into forage maize. Proposals that explore the potential for increased soil carbon sequestration and soil health improvement are welcomed.
  • Livestock breeding and management for improved climate resilience and reduction of emissions. This includes addressing challenges relating to fertility and herd management; regular body condition scoring, improving heat detection, reduced enteric emissions and use of sexed semen.
  • Precision farming and management. Improving resource use efficiency through the more precise use and management of inputs, including water, nutrients and novel livestock feeds. This may involve research for decision support tools, such as advancing understanding of the potential impacts and interconnectedness of the whole farming system, developing enhanced analytical methods, and improved and more efficient reporting of emissions.
  • Sustainable management strategies for pests, weeds and diseases. This may include exploring novel approaches that manage pests, weeds and diseases in the context of the wider farming system and environment, such as tools and technologies to monitor and manage pests, weeds and diseases in a holistic and integrated manner rather than targeting a specific species.


Researchers are encouraged to review the relevant Rapid Evidence Assessment documents as described in the background section for further detail about the needs of farmers and growers.


Knowledge exchange

Anticipated knowledge exchange activities should be outlined in the work plan. This may include dissemination of the research outputs to farmers and growers, through AHDB’s knowledge exchange network, Farm Excellence Platform and/or resilience support service.


Outputs must include:

  • A final report to AHDB (template will be supplied) – the report will be published on AHDB’s website in the research report section
  • Short article for the AHDB website
  • An AHDB/BBSRC webinar to explain the research of the research, how the new information can be adopted and/or the next steps


Project duration and budget

The investment will support 10 projects of approximately £50k and three months in duration. Projects must be completed by 21st March 2022.


The awards will fund direct costs only, including both directly incurred and directly allocated costs, at 100% FEC. This includes travel and salaries. Investigator and staff time can be charged to individual projects as required.


The awards may not be used to fund estates, overhead and indirect costs. This includes generic staff posts not directly related to the funded projects.


Award holders will be required to invoice AHDB by the 21st March 2022. A transaction listing that shows the name of the supplier, the amount and the date paid must accompany the invoice. Copies of invoices are not required, however BBSRC may request supporting documentation for any costs and this includes copies of any invoices.


Application process

Researchers are invited to submit applications responding to the scope of the call, as explained in this document. Please refer to the guidance notes for completion of application forms. Applicants may submit a joint proposal if complementary expertise has been identified which would enable the submission to more fully respond to the scope and priorities.


Applicants should complete the AHDB Research and KE Application Form - Full Proposal Small, completed forms must be emailed to research@ahdb.org.uk no later than 12.00 noon on the 05th November 2021. The proposals will be assessed by expert panel review against the criteria described in the attached application form. Applicants will be informed of the assessment outcome by AHDB.


Timings for application and project delivery


Stage of process


Call published

12th October 2021

Full proposal submission deadline

05th November 2021

Applicants informed of the outcome

26th November 2021

Anticipated start date

29th November 2021

Project end date

21st March 2022



If you have a specific question related to this call, please email research@ahdb.org.uk. As part of the open tender process, AHDB cannot discuss specific project details with you before submitting your proposal. Answers to specific questions will be published here.


Assessment criteria

Please note that the assessment criteria have been slightly altered for this tender, please see below.

Project Title:



SECTION 2: PROJECT OUTCOMES Beneficiaries appropriately identified. Novel approaches to deliver industry KE and links to existing AHDB KE activities. Appropriateness and clarity of industry engagement. Timeframe qualified to deliver project outputs and impact. Clarification over additional activities/resource required to deliver impact. Environmental benefits appropriately identified and any negative impacts detailed. Key Performance Indicators identified. Clear IP exploitation plan and route to further research or commercial development where relevant. 0-10 score; weighting of 3




Score:        x3 =

SECTION 3: TECHNICAL APPROACH AND WORK PLAN Scientific evaluation of current knowledge (appropriate references used) and awareness of other work. Clarity of aims, objectives, work packages and milestone schedule. Originality and innovation. Effective collaboration with commercial companies and relevant research organisations. Is the approach statistically robust? Feasibility and risk management. Project management structure and responsibilities clearly defined.  0-10 score; weighting of 3



Score:        x3 =

SECTION 4: RELEVANT KNOWELEDGE AND EXPERTISE Quality of past contributions to, and impact on, the topic demonstrated. Potential to bring added value through current and/or past contributions. Complementarities of expertise of the team and roles of collaborating organisations (if relevant) clearly defined.  0-10 score; weighting of 3



Score:        x3 =

SECTION 5: PROJECT COSTS Are costs reasonable and necessary? Will the total budget be adequate to carry out the proposed activities? Added value of co-funding? 0-10 score; weighting of 1



Score:        x1 =

Total Score            out of 100   (Threshold = 50)

Recommend for Funding           Yes / No