Pershore College opened its doors to representatives from over forty organisations and businesses from around the region when it officially opened its Agri-Tech Research Centre.
The state-of-the-art centre was funded with the support of £500,000 from Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership and houses a dedicated research and teaching laboratory, an outdoor protected vertical farm system, plus an indoor fully-automated hydroponics chamber. It also contains robotic and computer-based technologies that are used to educate and train students on modern applications of food production.
Aquaponic technologies have also been deployed within the college to experiment, test and demonstrate innovation and automation across a wide variety of settings.
Attendees enjoyed presentations and demonstrations on a number of topics as well as a tour around the centre with Professor Roy Kennedy, leader of the agri-tech programme at Pershore College. Specialist hydroponic equipment suppliers Hydrogarden, from Coventry sponsored business networking and the lunch.
The keynote speaker was Alastair Taylor chief executive of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers, who spoke about the need for agri-tech to solve issues surrounding horticulture and world food production. He said: “I very much welcome the work of Pershore College to raise awareness of the role of agri-tech in securing global food security. We wish the Agri-tech Research Centre every success and look forward to seeing it developing with new innovations and enterprises.”
The visitors also heard about a new project which aims to engage technology businesses with the agri sector, to find and develop new solutions to challenges faced by the sector.
The GrowAgri Worcestershire project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, will deliver tailored business support for small to medium-sized enterprises operating in the agri-tech, agri-food and related sectors to support business growth, increased productivity and to introduce new products, processes and services.
Professor Roy Kennedy, said: “We were absolutely delighted to welcome so many of our partners, stakeholders and businesses to the official opening of the centre and to Hydrogarden for being our sponsors. We have embarked on a dynamic journey to meet the demands of our new world and support regional priorities through the delivery of skills, education and training in agri-tech.
“Importantly, Pershore’s agri-tech centre will be a key resource for industry, where businesses can come and be trained in innovative technologies and work with students on projects to help develop solutions to the many challenges facing the agriculture and horticulture sector.”
Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We would like to add our congratulations to Pershore College for the launch of the grow-agri project at the newly opened agri-tech research centre. Pershore College is playing a crucial role in addressing current and pressing skills shortages that act as a barrier to business innovation and growth.”
Pershore College offers a wide range of horticulture courses including apprenticeships, full and part-time courses and degrees. For more information, go to: www.wcg.ac.uk/horticulture or call 0300 456 0049.