Hartpury unveils game-changing Digital Studio for agri-tech innovation


Hartpury University and Hartpury College officially launched its Digital Studio today (Thursday 25 May), setting a new standard for agri-tech innovation in Gloucestershire.

Designed to inspire the next generation of farmers, the innovative new teaching facility gives students access to the latest in agri-technology and precision smart farming simulation. 

In partnership with industry and education providers, the new Digital Studio will enable students to safely participate in agricultural tasks and experiences from the comfort of their classrooms using virtual and augmented realities. The aim of these simulations is to see how we can increase yields via sustainable methods, protecting the planet while still meeting the demand of feeding a growing population. 

The studio is a dedicated student - employee - industry facing space where future technologies in agriculture can be explored through agriculture simulators and VR headsets. 

The Digital Studio was officially opened by Professor Andy Collop - Vice-Chancellor, Principal and CEO of Hartpury, in front of over 40 invited guests that included Landex, project partners, supporters, and friends. During the highly interactive event, visitors toured the facility and immersed themselves in virtual reality using the Digital Studio simulators, VR headsets, and state-of-the-art agricultural gaming equipment. The event concluded with drone demonstrations.

The student-employee-industry-facing space further strengthens Hartpury's contribution to education and innovation in the agri-tech sector and supports decarbonisation and sustainability in the agricultural industry. It also complements the existing Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre and Tech Box Park which expose students and visitors to the latest technology and innovations as part of the wider Digital Innovation Farm.

Claire Whitworth, Hartpury Deputy Principal of Hartpury College said: “Development and advancement of digital skills and competencies is increasingly important for those operating in the agriculture industry to support and optimise efficiencies and margins. We’re delighted to be awarded funding through the countywide collaborative Strategic Development Fund to support our new Digital Studio. This will provide students with a fantastic opportunity in support of digital skills development for safe and efficient operation of agricultural machinery.”

The launch also introduced ‘The Digital Skills Framework in Agriculture,’ a national benchmark for education and training providers and a reference point for learners and teaching staff. The framework, developed through collective collaboration with partner Landex Colleges and over 200 individuals and businesses, will address the future green skills training needs of the agricultural industry.

Funding for the Digital Studio and Digital Skills Framework has been provided by the Department of Education's (DfE) Strategic Development Fund (SDF) and aligns with the key priorities for Gloucestershire outlined by Business West in their Local Skills Improvement Plan.

The funding was awarded to a consortium of Gloucestershire-based FE Colleges, consisting of Hartpury, South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, Gloucestershire College, and Cirencester College. It aims to tackle skills gaps through regional collaborations between colleges, training providers and employers, to ensure they are preparing Gloucestershire learners with the skills needed for employment.

SGS College Principal, Sara-Jane Watkins said: “SGS College has been thrilled to lead on the Strategic Development Fund project on behalf of the colleges across Gloucestershire. We have leveraged in nearly £3m of funding for both capital and revenue projects to support both the digital and sustainable initiatives that providers have been keen to develop. We are really pleased with the new facility that Hartpury has developed, and we hope this will bring many positives to the region, both for learners and the employers that will benefit from these new skills.”

[Pictured above] Libby Arrowsmith, Level 3 National Foundation Diploma in Agriculture student said: “When I applied to Hartpury, I never thought I’d be studying in an environment like this – it’s very surreal and a huge eye opener for me - the technology is exciting because it is just so new.”

Learn more about the Digital Studio here.