Yorkshire ag college launches £650,000 precision farming training project

A Yorkshire agricultural college has launched a £650,000 project to train a generation of tech-savvy precision farming pioneers.

Bishop Burton College, with support from the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), is investing in new technology and upgrading its digital infrastructure.

The project will enable students and the range employers the college works with to take advantage of innovative technology needed in the delivery of precision agriculture.

But the syllabus will be a little bit different for these ag students, with lessons to include the use of drones to evaluate crop growth and virtual combine harvesters and tractors to develop students’ knowledge and skills.

The funding will also be used to improve connectivity around the campus, to further improve the overall student experience at the college.

Chief executive and principal Bill Meredith said: “This is tremendous news, not only for the college and its students, but also the wider agricultural industry.

“This project will enable students and businesses to enhance their precision farming skills, which are essential for growth and sustainability in the post-Brexit era.”

To identify industry needs, the college spoke with 120 employers. Skills identified included:

  • Precision farming;
  • Crop husbandry and nutrition;
  • Fertiliser and chemical application;
  • Engineering technology;
  • Sustainability;
  • Digital skills.

Real-time data

As a result of this work, the college has adapted its curriculum and developed training modules which can be delivered online, including for apprentices in the workplace.

Modules will include real-time data made available from the college’s own commercial farm, with quick an easy transfer possible following the investment in ICT.

Mr Meredith added: “This will help students to understand how technical data can be used to better target agricultural inputs, improve yields and minimize environmental impact.

“The demand for innovative, hands-on training of this kind will underpin the growth in Higher Apprenticeships and workplace training programmes. The agriculture sector will be a major beneficiary of this project.”

The college, near Beverely, runs a variety of agriculture programmes, ranging from short courses and apprenticeships to BTECs and degrees.

Students benefit from working on the college’s 360ha mixed-use farm, which is split between arable and grassland for livestock.

It also runs courses in a wide variety of other subject areas, including animal management, engineering and equine.