Devon and Cornwall is set to become a centre for agricultural innovation and research as two of the region’s biggest agricultural colleges propose a suite of livestock research projects. Duchy College in Cornwall and Bicton College in South East Devon, who are both part of The Cornwall College Group (TCCG), are pioneering two projects in the dairy sector, supported by Rothamsted Research at North Wyke.
The proposals for the Bicton Campus will focus on profitable farming from grazed grass and will see a new dairy unit built on the campus. The project will seek to minimise the costs of production and signal a future for the dairy sector that reduces purchased feeds and maximises the opportunities and the comparative advantages of the South West in terms of climate and soil types.
At Duchy College in Stoke Climsland progress continues on the plans for an applied research dairy unit, that is capable of running over 300 cows in a series of up to 4 ‘mini herds’; each exploring the costs and benefits of multiple management and production regimes.
Director of Land Based Provision for Duchy and Bicton College, Dr Phil Le Grice, said: “This marks our commitment to creating a world class agri-tech hub here in the South West, which will see our teams from Duchy and Bicton College working together with our colleagues from Rothamsted Research North Wyke.
“The multiple pressures of the current market coupled with the future challenges of environmental change and the need for further improved product quality and the issues that our farming communities need to adapt to; these projects will enable us to lead by example, backed by a body of research and innovation.”
The facility at Bicton College will build on the strengths of the current enterprise and concentrate on an extended grazing period. Dr Le Grice continued: “The ability for our students to work with contrasting systems, across the two sites is unique and something that will benefit them in their future careers.”
“The partnership with Rothamsted Research North Wyke ensures that our students and the industry in the south west is connected to the best science in the UK and internationally. It is really important not to forget that the worldwide demand for dairy products is growing and will continue to grow. With that the demand for skills and knowledge will also increase. Our students have a busy and exciting future both in our local industry and, if they choose it, the opportunity for a global career.”
The project is attracting funding from the National Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), project and commercial sponsorship, as well as a sale and lease back package involving 200 acres of farm land around Bicton College. Dr Le Grice adds: “We are committed to delivering a world class education and this is the perfect solution; this now enables us to invest heavily in our future provision and research capabilities.”
Regional Director of the South West NFU, Melanie Squires, said: “Progressive innovation and research are key components of securing the future of agriculture, the countryside and food production, not only in the South West, but across the UK. Through strategic investments such as these and key scientific study we hope to be able to support farmers to become more resilient to the fluctuations in the marketplace, and ultimately profitable .”
Bicton College merged with The Cornwall College Group in March 2015; TCCG is the largest further education provider in the region with over 15,000 students and an annual turnover of over £75 million pounds.