College awarded £430,000 to construct 'digital hub' for farming

Catherine Dixon, CEO, Askham Bryan College with dairy cattle at the college's Westfield Farm
Catherine Dixon, CEO, Askham Bryan College with dairy cattle at the college's Westfield Farm

An agricultural college has been awarded £430,000 to construct a "modern digital hub" which will showcase the future of British farming.

Askham Bryan College’s will install the latest high-tech robotic milking parlour and automated calf feeding system, plus a farm information centre with a new digital classroom.

Around 60 of the college's 200-head dairy herd will use the robot system, with the rest being milked traditionally using the existing system.

The college, based in North Yorkshire, specialises in land-based further and higher education courses and apprenticeship provision and has around 5,000 students from across the country.

The digital hub, made possible due to the £430,000 investment from LEP Local Growth Fund, will be situated at Westfield Farm, within the main York campus.

'Huge challenge'

Dr Ruth Smith, Chair of the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding Enterprise Partnership (YNYER) Skills explained that the investment was made because the local rural economy will likely face a "huge challenge" in the coming years with Brexit.

“Farming will need to innovate and be ready to use the very latest technology that allows them to bring efficiencies into production lines,” Dr Smith said.

“By investing in Askam Bryan’s technology offering, we’re ensuring that the young people of the region will be prepared with the right skills, to not only seek employment in the farming industry, but to develop as the next generation of leaders in agriculture.”

Digitalising the farm means that college will be able to collect data, analyse it and compare different milking systems, looking at costs and driving efficiency.

Work on the project is expected to begin this autumn with completion anticipated for the start of term in September 2019.