The deadline for applications to the 2017 Investment Aid Scheme for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture sector closes tomorrow, December 16.

This scheme aims to assist in the development of the sector, including beekeeping, by grant aiding capital investments in specialised plant and equipment as well as emerging technologies specific to the sector.

It also hopes to facilitate environmentally friendly practices, promote the diversification of on-farm activities, improve the quality of products and improve working conditions.

Completed applications must be sent to the Crop Policy, Production and Safety Division, Horticulture Grants Section at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s administration building, in Celbridge, Co. Kildare.

Applications must be submitted in a hard copy format by 5pm on Friday, December 16, and must be accompanied by the required supporting documentation.

This documentation should include a business plan, the latest set of accounts as well as up-to-date and fully descriptive signed quotations showing the net cost of the proposed investment.

An official application form is available from the Department’s website and must be completed by the applicant as well signed and stamped by Teagasc or an approved adviser.

The funding scheme is eligible to investments which have to be completed and claimed for no later than September 29, 2017, according to the Department.

The scheme is open to all horticultural sectors, including protected crops, nursery crops, field vegetables, soft fruit, apples, beekeeping and mushrooms.

Grant aid will be provided by the scheme at a rate of 40%, but the maximum rate may rise to 50% in the case of young farmers.

To qualify for the higher rate of grant aid on the basis of being a young farmer, the applicant must be under 35 years of age on the date of receipt of a valid application by the Department.

As the funds available under the scheme are limited, investments will be in competition for grant-aid.

The minimum investment which will be considered for grant aid is €10,000, except in the case of beekeeping where the minimum investment required will drop to €2,000.

Under the rules of the scheme, grant aid will only cover new materials and/or new specialised horticultural plant equipment.

Grant aid will not be provided for secondhand equipment, materials or replacements, while it also must only be used on new projects as repair or maintenance work does not qualify under the scheme.

It is also important to note that no aid will be paid for projects which have begun prior to the issue date of the respective letter of approval by the Department.