National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Minette Batters has performed the official opening of the new £2 million Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre.
The ceremony was attended by 100 guests from the agriculture industry, including Clive and Sylvia Richards, whose charity donated £150,000 towards the project, and David Owen, Chief Executive of the GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, which provided £1 million in match funding.
The Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre is a unique complex of purpose-built facilities enabling farmers, Hartpury students and organisations involved in agriculture to enjoy easy and comprehensive access to the latest commercial technology.
The state-of-the-art facility, based at Hartpury University and Hartpury College, showcases the production, welfare and financial improvements that smart farming technology can bring to farmers and producers, to further increase their overall farm performance and productivity.
Minette Batters said: “I think the Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre is absolutely brilliant and what’s been done here is phenomenal.
“This is all about empowering Gloucestershire farmers, both young and old, with access to new skills and technology.
“It is really important that as an industry we continue to upskill and push ourselves forward.
“The Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre offers farmers a great opportunity to access the latest commercial technology and explore how they can embrace innovation on their farm.
“As our industry aims to become more productive and sustainable, access to new technology will be absolutely crucial.”
Minette Batters and Russell Marchant, the Vice-Chancellor of Hartpury University and Principal of Hartpury College, unveiled a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre.
Russell Marchant said: “Technology offers farming enormous benefits but we have to fully engage with it – that is where our new Agri-Tech Centre comes in.
“It aims not only to educate young students but also, crucially, provide the right environment for industry to come and see technology in action, to get the overalls on and have a hands-on experience of making it work. To try before you buy!
“The Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre is part of our ambitious 10-year vision we have to create a Digital Innovation Farm, in response to an increasingly digital world with global demand for new technology in farming.
“Our plans for the next decade will provide essential support for agricultural businesses and professionals in Gloucestershire and beyond.
“These plans highlight the scale of our commitment and our ambition to be leaders in shaping the future of digital farming in the UK and beyond.”
GFirst LEP CEO David Owen said: “We’re delighted to support the innovative and exciting Agri-Tech project at Hartpury University and Hartpury College.
“The ‘Tech-to-Plate’ initiative complements previous GFirst LEP-funded projects within the county, namely Farm 491 at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, and will lead the work of increasing productivity in this important sector for the county.”
The Clive and Sylvia Richards Charity (CSRC), which focuses on supporting education, healthcare, heritage and arts, was established in 1986 by philanthropists Clive and Sylvia Richards.
It makes annual charitable donations of £1 million to £2 million, with all funds donated exclusively by Mr and Mrs Richards, whose current business interests include a commercial fruit farm on their 2,000-acre estate in Herefordshire.
Clive and Sylvia Richards said: “We and the other trustees of the charity are pleased to support the Agri-Tech Centre at Hartpury, specifically the Diagnostic Suite for data gathering, diagnostics, analysis, knowledge exchange and research.
“We’re looking forward to developing a successful long-term partnership with Hartpury, which will include welcoming agriculture students to our fruit farm and our senior staff discussing aspects of course content they can support.”
Picture: Russell Marchant and Minette Batters unveiling the plaque at the official opening ceremony of the Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre