Royal Agricultural University launches new Rural Innovation Centre

Former Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir John Beddington, officially launched the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) brand new Rural Innovation Centre (RIC) at Harnhill Manor Farm on Thursday 27 March.

Leading industry professionals and representatives from BASF, Agrii, CCRI, FWAG and the Princes Countryside Fund converged at the new centre, an important development for the agricultural sector, and enjoyed an afternoon of stimulating discussion around the ‘hot topics’ in agriculture.

Professor Chris Gaskell CBE, RAU Principal, took to the stage to warmly welcome guests before thanking all those involved in making the centre a reality. He went on to talk about the centre’s laudable purpose as a centre for applied research, and it’s humble beginnings as a lambing shed, before introducing Professor Toby Mottram, Dr Louise Manning, and Professor Sir John Beddington.

Professor Toby Mottram, Douglas Bomford Trust Chair in Agricultural Mechanisation at the RAU, spoke about ‘Agri-tech, the value of technology to farmers’ and the value new technology such as the farmBolus, which wirelessly measure the rumen pH in cows, and Dr Louise Manning, Senior Lecturer in Food Production Management at the RAU, discussed ‘The knowledge agenda’ and made the exciting announcement that Agrii had agreed to fund a new PhD in celebration of launch.

Professor Sir John Beddington, Governor at the RAU, then addressed the captivated audience with an inspirational presentation on ‘Technology and innovation: Meeting the needs of the future’, touching upon the University’s translational research, before pulling the curtain cord to reveal the plaque and declare the centre officially open.

Leading the way in agricultural research and education, details of the University’s latest research and consultancy were on display for industry professional to discuss with RAU academics. The showcased projects included:

  • KisanHub – a cloud-based, integrated software platform which brings together public and private data to help farmers arrive at better agronomic and/or business decisions
  • RAU professional and industry-specific agricultural training courses
  • Muddy Wellies – a social enterprise drinks company run by the student body
  • Farm machinery and cutting-edge technology
  • Princes Countryside Fund, BASF, Agrii, CCRI, and FWAG

Plus there were live demonstrations of rural skills courses such as forges, dry stone walling and hurdle making, and atendees are invited to enjoy a farm tour to explore the centre and its facilities.

Drinks and canapés were supplied by local producers and RAU alumni.

RAU Principal, Professor Chris Gaskell CBE, said: “The ambitions for the Rural Innovation Centre underpin the Royal Agricultural University’s goal to play a role in meeting the challenges of sustainably feeding a growing global population whilst stimulating growth, diverse employment opportunities, and economic activity in rural areas.”

The University, together with the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust, has invested £1.2million in the centre, which was visited by HRH the Prince of Wales prior to its official launch towards the end of last year. It will enable the sharing of cutting-edge knowledge between those involved in agricultural production and those undertaking applied research, enabling the promotion of education, innovation and knowledge exchange in the ‘field’.

As a ‘knowledge hub’, the centre will provide a major new on-farm resource for the wider rural sector and the local community and include classrooms, offices, a demonstration area, community space, and meeting rooms. Alongside the sharing of scientific research, it will enable the University to build on the vocational rural skills training it already provides to organisations and individuals.