Research and knowledge exchange

AHDB is the major funder of applied agricultural and horticultural research and knowledge exchange (KE) in the UK.

About 50% of the levy collected is invested in this technical programme. As a result of recent strategic changes in AHDB, research and KE programmes are now being re-aligned to address the new AHDB three-year strategy, set out in the document AHDB Strategy 2017–2020: Inspiring success.

This identifies four high‑level strategic priorities which will be delivered via sector‑specific activities covering the full range of AHDB’s operations. The technical research and knowledge exchange components of those sector activities will be delivered via work programmes grouped under six outcome-based themes (see the AHDB Research and Knowledge Exchange Framework opposite).

This will see a move towards most research projects being commissioned via competitive tender. Although there will still be some opportunities for responsive mode proposals, these will require a strong business case and/or offer significant co‑funding opportunities

AHDB research and knowledge exchange framework


AHDB KE builds on the fact that we are unique in being able to blend farm economics and skills development with technical advances and innovation.

KE activities will take the outputs arising from work done under the six themes and deliver them to the industry via four new programmes that themselves contribute to two new delivery platforms.

Feedback on industry priorities from the sector-orientated KE programmes will inform the direction of future research and KE programmes within the context of the AHDB strategy.

Research and knowledge exchange themes

Theme 1: Realising genetic potential
Turning data into genetic information by:
  • Understanding the genetic basis of resistance and resilience to animal and plant pests and diseases
  • Understandfing novel genetic techniques and their practical application in plant and animal genetics
  • Developing and evaluating new plant variety and animal traits
  • Coordinating and sharing knowledge on research tools and techniques
  • Understanding quality traits for healthy food
  • Coordinating activity in animal breeding research and evaluation
Theme 2: Building sustainable plant and animal health
Improving knowledge exchange and practice by:
  • Understanding, monitoring and management of animal and plant pests and diseases
  • Developing and evaluating strategies and tools to reduce the threat of anti-microbial resistance (AMR)
  • Developing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems
  • Understanding disease epidemiology and pest population dynamics
  • Evaluating practical methods to understand and minimise pest, weed and disease resistance risk
  • Developing monitoring tools and analysing and interpreting data form them
  • Developing animal disease control strategies, including new initiatives and diagnostics and decision support tools
Identifying gaps in the current plant protection product armoury, emergency use of pesticieds and regulatory issues
Theme 3: Managing resources efficiently and sustainably
Becoming more competitive and sustainable by:
  • Developing nutritional strategies for livestock, including neonatal nutrition and young stock rearing
  • Understanding and monitoring of environmental issues
  • Evaluating novel animal feeds and feeding systems
  • Maintaining and improving soil health
  • Improving grazing and conversion
  • Facilitating the development of responsibly sourced growing media
  • Investigating alternative forages and novel forage traits
  • Developing more resilient farming systems
  • Understanding and monitoring of crop physiology, crop nutrition, agronomy and crop storage solutions
Theme 4: Driving precision technology into practice
Independent, evidence-based information and evaluation of tools and technology by:
  • Linking sensor data to biological processes to influence management decisions
  • Demonstrating innovative robotics and their practical application
  • Analysing and exploiting large data sets to understand current practice and future impact on farm practice and economics
Evaluating the use of telemetry in precision livestock farming
  • Identifying novel technologies in other industries for application in agriculture and horticulture
  • Evaluating on-site and remote sensor applications
  • Understanding data ownership, quality and curation
Theme 5: Facilitating trusted food in the supply chain
Understand and deliver what customers will buy by:
  • Improving raw product quality to meet current and future supply chain needs
  • Promoting the nutritional value and specific human health benefits of meat and crops
  • Understanding and monitoring food safety issues and changes in legislation
  • Developing systems for understanding the provenance and verification of food
  • Evaluating the impact of new production methods on food safety
  • Understanding nutrient utilisation in plants to maximise storage quality
  • Understanding factors affecting meat and crop quality
Theme 6: Honing business and technical skills
Improve and grow businesses and build the agriculture and horticulture industry profile by:
  • Supporting PhDs, bursaries and fellowships
  • LEAN management systems
  • Technical and business up-skilling of farmers, growers and consultants through CPD schemes
  • Farm management accounting and decision support
  • Understanding the drivers and influencers of farmer decision making
  • International competitiveness and competitor production costs and performance
  • Understanding attitudes and perceptions to risk and understanding behaviour change
  • Analysis and review of farm production costs

Knowledge exchange: Programmes

KE Programme 1: Network building
Achieving more by working together by:
  • Collaborating with third parties to deliver KE (eg discussion groups and technical events)
  • Developing a suite of activities targeting third party knowledge providers (eg vets, nutritionists, consultants, agronimists) so they access "state of the art" knowledge and information
KE programme 2: Supply chain integration
Building connectivity through supply chains to improve marketability by:
  • Developing and supporting processes for improved traceablilty
  • Identifying and mesuring consumer and processor quality
  • Enabling better feedback to producers to support them in meeting market specifications
KE programme 3: Business development
Developing an industry fit for the future by:
  • Developing a fully integrated business skills development programme
  • Enabling access to statistical data on farm costs
  • Promoting careers for the agri-food and horticulture industries
  • Developing a broad skills initiative to provide a joined-up approach to accredititation, development and delivery
KE programme 4: Intelligence gathering
Listening, learning and sharing by:
  • Collecting data on key industry perfromance indicators
  • Keeping an ear to the ground in the regions for industry priorities and concerns
  • Enabling early warning of critical issues
  • Understanding the international technical, business and market landscape