A near £2million investment in new facilities and technologies will be used to develop high-level agricultural skills training and help tackle climate change.
The funding has been awarded to Bishop Burton College by the Department for Education (DfE) as part of the Institutes of Technology initiative.
Bishop Burton, near Beverley, is part of a consortium of colleges in the region to develop the Yorkshire and Humber Institute of Technology, which is one of 12 across the country designed to increase higher-level technical skills for employers.
The Yorkshire and Humber consortium, led by York College, is receiving an investment of circa £10million of capital funding into the region for partners.
Bishop Burton is receiving £1.7million, which will be invested in a new training facility and precision farming technologies.
Bill Meredith, Chief Executive and Principal of the college, said: “This will put the emphasis on precision agriculture as a means of making farming more sustainable in the future, both from an economic and an environmental point of view.
“It means smarter and more precise use of farm inputs and potentially improved yields because you are only placing the inputs exactly where they are required.
“This also has the potential to help reduce our carbon footprint, not just because of the precise applications, but because it also lends itself to more sustainable methods of production, for example, minimal cultivation techniques and a more integrated farm management system.
“This will help cut our carbon output and we are aiming for our college farm to be carbon net-zero by 2030 – 10 years ahead of the NFU’s aim for farming nationally.
“It is quite an ambitious target but we feel that, with the precision agriculture technologies that are available now, plus the mixed-use arable and livestock nature of our farm, we can trap more carbon within our farming system and minimise harmful greenhouse gases.
“Minimal cultivation helps retain organic matter in the soil and therefore retain carbon. If we can train our students in all these areas this will benefit the farming industry and the wider environment.”
The funding will be used for a new build on the campus, which will include classrooms and dedicated workshop spaces.
It will also be used to pay for new precision farming methods, such as satellite technologies and equipment that is capable of remotely sensing various field factors, including crop density, yields, diseases and pests, among other things.
Mr Meredith said: “We will have robotics for students to work with and there will be an overall communications system and recording system for all the data, as there will be masses of data produced by these precision technologies.
“We will be working very closely with local farmers and machinery dealers, as well as precision agriculture specialists.
“We have developed a range of courses that include agri-tech and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, with a strong emphasis on digital. Digital is really the cross-cutting theme across all of the Yorkshire and Humber Institute of Technology.”
Bishop Burton has partnered with York College, Askham Bryan College, Craven College, East Riding College, Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education, Selby College, the University of Hull and the University of York St John in the Institute of Technology initiative.
The joint bid received significant levels of employer support, which was instrumental in its success. Companies including ViSR, CATCH, Skipton Building Society, GB Recruitment and ENGIE Fabricom all recognised the need for investment in education to address their wider skills shortages and signed up as employer partners involved in designing the appropriate curriculum, supported by research from the universities.
These employers are part of the governance of the Yorkshire and Humber Institute of Technology to ensure continued collaboration and long-term benefits for the region.
• Bishop Burton College’s ambition for its farm to be carbon net-zero by 2030 will be the focus of one of the exhibitions at The Waterline Summit, at the Bonus Arena in Hull, on Thursday, 28th November. The summit has been organised by Marketing Humber to highlight the fight against global warming.