Agriculture at Myerscough College is FFIT for the future

Published
Tuesday 20 Sep 2016

Work on a state-of-the-art agriculture centre on the site of Myerscough College’s Lodge Farm has reached the half way stage, in what will become a sector leading centre of excellence for industry training.

 

The FFIT (Food & Farming Innovation & Technology) Centre is a major flagship build for agriculture and associated courses at Myerscough and should be ready for the start of the next academic year in September, 2017.

The first phase of the ambitious project has now been completed with the building of a Livestock Innovation Centre, which will provide new livestock production facilities with embedded technology to promote precision farming practices.

The Livestock Innovation Centre is in essence a building for up to 180 cattle. However it is the technology within the livestock building that sets it apart from other buildings typically found on farms. It includes:

  • A bank of 6 Growsafe feeders – one of the first colleges in the UK to be fitted with this technology from Canada which automatically monitors diet intake and associated data such as how much eaten, when and how many times a day. This will allow feed / diet comparison trials and research to be carried out on groups of up to 30 cattle or two groups of 15 cattle.
  • A handling system designed to ease cattle flow and movement and enhance animal welfare.
  • A hydraulic cattle crush and shedding system which enhances both cattle and operator safety and welfare.
  • Electronic Identification with facility for recording not only weight but also various types of management data such as condition score, conformation, fat class and health treatments.
  • An automatic ventilation curtain controlled by climatic sensors coupled with a ventilating light ridge to create optimum ventilation conditions for the livestock whilst also maximising internal natural light
  • Fixed infra-red video camera’s together with audio recording to monitor cattle welfare and behaviour
  • Epoxy resin feed passage treatment to maximise livestock diet intake from the floor
  • TMR diet feeding system that is automatically monitored and controlled via the internet
  • A robotic feed push up system to keep the diet in front of the animals and minimise diet separation
  • High speed Wi-Fi enabled across the farm buildings to allow easy access to ‘cloud’ based farm management data

The project will cost around £5 million in total.

Craig Thompson is Head of Agriculture & Countryside and outlines the journey so far and looks forward to the benefits the project will bring: ‘’It seems only a few weeks since March 2014 when our Principal – Ann Turner – sat us down and informed us that she had been successful in writing a ‘expression of interest’ bid to the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership for the funding of a Food, Farming, Innovation and Technology centre.

‘’As a result, the plan was further developed with the brief being to establish a centre of excellence at Myerscough College which showcases the use of innovation and technology in farming and the production of food, focusing especially on grazing livestock and grassland management. This focus was to develop and enhance the College’s existing farming enterprises 300 hectares of grass and forage crops used to stock 220 dairy cows, 60 suckler cows, 1500 ewes.

‘’The project was finally approved by the LEP in June 2015. Planning permission and contractors were secured in January 2016 and construction commenced in February 2016 with the first phase – the Livestock Innovation Centre – now complete.

‘’Over the coming months we look forward to being able to share our experiences of the new Livestock Innovation Centre via our website and Myerscough College Agriculture & Farms Facebook page.’’

It’s expected that cattle will be housed in the LIC from early October 2016. Staff and students will actively engage with the technology from the outset and are eagerly anticipating the research trials that can be carried out on various aspects of livestock management.

What next?

The next stage of the project is for the construction of the FFIT centre itself. This will comprise of a red brick building to house the research and teaching facilities that will link with the various technologies in the livestock centre. It will also link with the additional technologies planned over the coming year to enhance grassland management. Furthermore, the FFIT centre will have facilities to support food research and development with the aim of creating a resource that both local businesses and students can use to investigate opportunities to process and add value to on-farm produce. It is expected that this building will be complete in August 2017 to be used by students at the start of the new academic year.

Craig Thompson adds: ‘’The FFIT project is a bold and ambitious project which will offer numerous significant benefits to the food and farming sector within the North West. Not only will the College be training farmers for the future, it will also give existing farmers and rural businesses the opportunity to see how innovation and technology can be used on their farms.

‘’It will also reaffirm Myerscough College’s place amongst some of the leading land-based Colleges within the UK.’’

Once complete the centre will be a two storey building and will incorporate specialist teaching as well as demonstration and research facilities including a teaching laboratory, soil laboratory, instrumentation room, production development kitchen, as well as a conference room, general teaching rooms, offices, a dining area and changing facilities.

John Wherry, Deputy Principal Resources at Myerscough College, said: ‘’The project enables the College to make a significant contribution towards the realisation of Lancashire LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan.

‘’Myerscough already has a significant network of local businesses including more than 6,000 farmers, 80 small food producers who are members of college managed Made in Lancashire and around 1,200 employers who the college interacts and delivers training to in any given year.

‘’The project will ultimately result in the creation of a centre of excellence to lead the development and adoption of precision farming techniques within the livestock and grassland sectors. The facility will also provide resources to support the development of local food products. As the project is being delivered on the College’s existing Lodge Farm site it will therefore be integrated into existing farming activities and directly support curriculum delivery on the farm.’’

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by Dave Salmon

DSalmon@myerscough.ac.uk

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