New centre for the teaching of agriculture
Two agricultural research and education establishments have announced plans to set up a new partnership in the Westcountry.
Bicton College, Devon's agricultural college, and the charity Dartington Hall Trust are to join forces to establish the new campus at Dartington Hall Estate.
The proposed collaboration – Bicton College@Dartington – will provide a wide range of courses for students from age 14 upwards, from across the region, at all educational levels, including higher education. Courses will be offered in all aspects of agriculture, horticulture and countryside management.
But top of the list, the partnership aims to work together to explore Fossil Fuel Free (F3) farming. Both Bicton and Dartington have a strong track record in sustainable farming research, with Bicton opening its Environmental and Renewable Energies Hub (EaRTH) this year – and Dartington's Schumacher College launching a postgraduate programme in sustainable horticulture and food production, aimed at growing low-input, diverse and resilient food systems.
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By combining their expertise in sustainable development, Bicton College and Dartington plan to combine traditional agricultural education with research into a range of new, commercially viable sustainable farming systems, said Bicton principal David Henley.
He explained: "We believe we have the potential to make a significant impact on how our farming responds to the issues of climate change, and energy and food security. We were eager to partner with Dartington who not only share our vision of the criticality of addressing these issues, but have common values and principles. We also believe this partnership will enable us to support our land-based mission across Devon and beyond."
Projects currently being considered include anaerobic digestion as an alternative source for non-organic fertiliser, solar-power generation, bio-gas powered farm machinery, filtrated plant oil as an alternative vehicle fuel and bio-mass boilers for heating.
The farming system will evaluate emerging techniques such as once-a-day milking to reduce energy requirements and improve cow health, optimisation of genetic traits to increase the efficiency of animal production, and new approaches to soil management.
Bicton has begun recruitment for its first student intake next September.