A project that could help increase planting of the perennial bioenergy crop, Miscanthus, has been awarded over £150,000 of funding through the government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme.

Miscanthus specialist, Terravesta, has been successful in its bid to secure Phase 1 funding for its OMENZ project – ‘Optimising Miscanthus Establishment through improved mechanisation and data capture to meet Net Zero targets’.

According to Terravesta, success in Phase 1 of this project will enable upscaling in Phase 2, in support of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that planting should hit at least 30,000 hectares a year by 2035, so that 700,000 hectares is planted by 2050.

“The OMENZ project will pave the way for more perennial bioenergy crops to be planted, by developing the technologies and infrastructure needed,” explained Terravesta’s science and technology director, Michael Squance.

“Currently there are around 7000 hectares of Miscanthus in the UK, and even less short-rotation willow coppice and short rotation forestry. We need to ensure more biomass feedstocks are available to meet the growing demand for decarbonisation of agriculture and for the rapidly emerging bio-economy. Ultimately, there has to be market-ready technology to scale it up successfully and this is what this project will help to enable.”

The Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme was launched earlier this year by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and has now awarded £4 million of funding for the project development stage of the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme, with up to £200,000 of funding per project. The programme is enabling organisations, including start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, to develop strong project proposals that will deliver commercially viable innovations in biomass production.

Terravesta’s head of R and D, Jason Kam, said: “The OMENZ project will take six months to complete, and will analyse field preparation, machinery, technology and planting techniques to identify areas that can deliver gains, efficiency and cost reduction.

“If successful in Phase 2 of the BEIS funded programme, Terravesta’s project then aims to trial a range of new technologies, including automated systems and drone-linked machine learning, using an integrated data capture and analysis platform to gain insights into crop performance.”