College launches new centre for farmers to learn about latest farming technology

Hartpury College is dragging the agriculture industry into the future by launching a new hub to educate farmers in the latest technological advances, reports Samantha King

The £2 million Agri Tech Centre will be based at the college’s 1,000-acre commercial farm, and will provide a place to demonstrate to industry professionals how tech can revolutionise the farming process as well as increase the productivity of livestock.

“We’ve got an industry where the average age of people managing farms is probably about 58, and quite often they’re a bit put off technology. They’re not sure how it’ll work, and so they leave it alone,” explained Russell Marchant, principal and CEO of Hartpury College.

“We’re not utilising the technology that we need to improve productivity, and that’s what this centre is about.”

Students who are trained in the tech will help give demonstrations to visitors to the centre on everything from the benefits of electronic ear-tagging and handling systems, to putting sensors on cows’ tails which send a notification to a farmer’s phone if the animal is about to give birth.

“The latest thing is using thermal imaging techniques on animals to see, if they’re lame for example, what’s causing the lameness. Is it muscular? Is it an infection? We can limit the use of antibiotics and use drugs more effectively,” Mr Marchant added.

Half of the funding for the centre has been provided by GFirst local enterprise partnership after a successful bid from the college’s agriculture team, and the rest of the money has been put forward by the college and tech manufacturers, who want their farming innovations presented to farmers.

The new centre will also provide new job opportunities in the area, and the college wants to hire specialist staff to help the hub run smoothly after construction is completed in Autumn next year.

“This is hopefully just the start of Gloucestershire playing a leading role in Agri Tech innovation and knowledge transfer into industry,” continued Mr Marchant. “We’ll start to try and set up tech demonstrations from this summer, so we won’t be waiting until we’ve got the hub building finished.”

Main picture: Using thermal imaging to monitor cows’ udders and joints