Hartpury joins fellow research institutions to form the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC)

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Hartpury University has joined 15 other institutions that offer courses in agriculture or carry out agricultural research to form the Agricultural Universities Council (AUC).

The Council will agree on joint agricultural research priorities and work with farmers and others who have a stake in the industry’s future. Hartpury’s seat on the Council not only reinforces its profile as a leading agricultural university, but also provides additional benefits for students through research opportunities and industry links.

As farming faces up to a transitional period, the initiative aims to provide a joined-up approach to research and to ensure public investment in agricultural innovation makes a difference on the ground.

The new research initiative was announced by Defra Secretary of State The Rt Hon George Eustice MP at the launch of the UK Agriculture Partnership which took place last week at the Royal Agricultural University, which is one of the members of the AUC.

The Council’s first project will be to map existing agricultural research capacity across the UK for the first time in a decade, and work with farmers, as well as environmental, welfare and community groups, food businesses, and other stakeholders, to shape future research priorities.

Matt Bell, Professor and Director of Agriculture at Hartpury University, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of this forward-thinking Council, formed at an incredibly important time for our industry. The AUC allows us to contribute to conversations with policy and decision makers with a combined voice of 16 leaders, allowing for a joined up approach to informing the UK research strategy for agriculture.

“Agriculture is at the heart of Hartpury, at the college, university and postgraduate  levels, and our 10-year Digital Innovation Farm vision includes an Agri-Tech Centre, reflecting our commitment to boosting research and bolstering industry links to further enhance best practice, as well as giving our students real-life learning experiences for their future careers.

“Our students, the farmers of the future, are sure to benefit from this joined-up approach, just as they do from having access to our existing industry links and commercial farm.”

The AUC’s work to agree joint research priorities is being supported by the Centre for Effective Innovation in Agriculture (CEIA). Professor Tom MacMillan, from the Centre and who is also the Elizabeth Creak Chair in Rural Policy and Strategy at the Royal Agricultural University, also attended the UK Agriculture Partnership launch event.

He said: “Farmers, industry, and public interest groups have longstanding concerns about the impact of publicly-funded research. Some of this frustration is shared by scientists, particularly when they find themselves competing for research grants when it would make more sense to collaborate. At this hugely challenging time for farming, it is really refreshing that so many leading research institutions are teaming up to help address this.”

Hartpury University’s new Professional Certificate of Higher Education in Agricultural Enterprise Management will welcome its first cohort of students in September 2022.

The MSc Applied Agricultural Sciences, Hartpury’s first official postgraduate agricultural degree, will also welcome students from September 2022. Focusing on using science to improve protocols and sustainable solutions across the agricultural industry, the introduction of this exciting programme follows a period of exciting announcements from the department.

This includes the opening of the new £2 million Agri-Tech Centre committed to driving data-driven science and innovation in an ever-changing farming sector. £2m has also been invested in the Digital Innovation Farm Tech Box Park due to launch officially this summer; part of a 10-year strategy to provide world-class agricultural facilities, education and research.

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