Given the sheer volume and variety of apps, software and devices available these days, how can farmers and growers possibly hope to know which tech they should use and whether it actually works?
That's precisely the kind of problem which Hartpury’s new Agri-Tech Centre is intended to solve, according to Ben Thompson who is spearheading the initiative at the university and college campus in Gloucestershire.
Speaking to a team from NFU Mutual during a recent tour of the Centre, Ben (pictured above) explained that the University and College’s ambition is for the new £2 million Centre to become a destination for farmers and growers to gain valued access to all kinds of technology and innovative practice.
Ben says: “No matter how deep your pockets, or how complex your requirements, you want to be sure that the that any tech that you’re using is up to the task.
“The Hartpury Agri-Tech Centre is in a unique position. By showcasing commercially proven products and services, we can not only give farmers the chance to see how apps or software or devices perform but – crucially - offer an independent opinion of its capability based on the experience of the people who have tried it out. Ben explains: “Our Centre is an industry-facing facility that will engage with students, farmers and expertise from the wider industry – engaging with 4,000 people each year. By bringing farmers together with developers, both sides can help one another identify commercial problems to be solve in innovative ways, benefitting both businesses.”
The technology being demonstrated will showcase live data from sensors, robotics, software and other tools stationed on working farms nationwide - including the commercial farm on site at Hartpury with its state-of-the-art livestock handling unit with viewing gallery.
In addition to its ability to deliver hands-on experience of existing tech, Ben is determined that the Centre will become a hub for businesses – whether they’re start-ups, scaling up, or established brands - to gauge the views of farmers and growers for tools or service ideas, and work alongside potential users of new tech, before they invest in prototyping or launches.
Ben says: “Innovation isn’t just about the use of technology. It’s about how farmers are able to apply new technologies and techniques in a way which results in more profitable and sustainable businesses. We will be bridging the gap between research and commercial reality, helping make Gloucestershire a go-to region for technology and innovation in agriculture