Harper Adams University: DEFRA Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation visits Harper Adams University

Harper Adams University has welcomed Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation Jo Churchill to its Shropshire campus.

Serving as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Mrs Churchill’s responsibilities include science and innovation, Defra delivery of Net Zero and climate change adaption across Government, environmental management and regulation, and more.

Harper Adams University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ken Sloan, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Minister to the Harper Adams campus – and to give her a taste of vital work we are doing.

“With so many diverse research projects and partnerships, and a wide variety of agriculture, engineering, food and veterinary courses among others, the main challenge for us was developing a visit programme which demonstrated the breadth of possibilities which our University can unlock.

“We also spoke with the Minister about some of the challenges which both Higher Education and the industries which our students go on to work in face – and how Government can help us to tackle them.”

During a packed morning visit to Harper Adams, the Minister visited the University’s 35-hectare Hands Free Farm to find out more about the research being done there on autonomous agriculture from the project’s Principal Investigator and Senior Lecturer, Kit Franklin, and Senior Ag Tech Engineer Mike Gutteridge.

The farm is the successor of the multi-award winning Hands-Free Hectare, which started in 2016 with the aim to be the first in the world to grow, tend and harvest a crop without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground.

The Minister next visited the Agri-EPI precision dairy.

Here, she heard more about how the dairy is working with industry to undertake high-tech research into the behaviour of its cows, speaking with Head of the Department for Animal Health, Behaviour and Welfare Dr Philip Robinson.

The Minister then discovered how the University’s Future Farm will drive understanding and insight on how farming and food production will be delivered sustainably, speaking with University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Lee.

Professor Lee also updated the Minister on the development of the School of Sustainable Food and Farming.

Finally, she visited the Agricultural Engineering Innovation Centre, where she spoke with Senior Lecturer in Soil and Water Management Dr Paula Misiewicz about the long-running traffic and tillage project, with Masters students about their research, and with Head of Engineering Parmjit Chima about the importance of technological innovation for both industrial partners – and the next generation of engineers currently learning at Harper Adams.

Speaking after her visit, Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation, Jo Churchill MP, said: “I was really grateful to the University for giving me a whistle-stop tour of some of the vital innovation work they are involved with.

“Talking to lecturers and students about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and how collaborations with industry and other countries such as India, means Harper Adams is a vital part of training the next generation of farmers, engineers and technologists both here and abroad.”