Edward Timpson CBE, Member of Parliament for Eddisbury, learned more about technical advancements at Reaseheath College and University Centre in Nantwich during a fact finding campus tour.

Mr Timpson was updated on Reaseheath’s latest horticultural innovation, the UK’s largest training and research centre for vertical farming, which has just been completed. Vertical farming is the practice of growing plants indoors in stacked layers under controlled and sterile conditions. It offers a means of growing safe, healthy and nutritious food locally and has been welcomed by environmentalists due to its low food miles and smaller land requirement.

The Vertical Farming Centre is part of the Institute of Sustainability and Food Innovation, a joint venture between Reaseheath and its academic partner, the University of Chester. The project aims to showcase the technological innovations within this fast growing and specialised sector and offers undergraduates and businesses the opportunity for applied research and technical training. Reaseheath also plans to link with local schools, particularly in the practical application of digital and STEM subjects.

Mr Timpson also visited Reaseheath’s recently installed automated robotic milking system and its associated data hub, which are delivering training in cutting edge green technology skills to agricultural staff and students.

The Lely Astronaut A5 system has two robotic milking stations incorporating sophisticated data processing which deliver highly accurate readings in areas such as feed intake, milk yield and cow health. The data is available on touch screen in Reaseheath’s Robotic Milking Centre and also on large screens in the Data Hub, where it used to provide training in the emerging areas of digitalisation, robotics, sustainability and data-driven dairy management to students, undergraduates, specialist engineers, Lely clients and members of the farming community.

Both projects have been supported by Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership through its Local Growth Fund.

Mr Timpson also discussed the success of the National Skills Fund, which helps adults to train and gain skills which will improve their job prospects while supporting the economy. Reaseheath is using this funding to offer Level 3 courses in advanced welding, environmental sustainability, landscape construction, public services, coaching and mentoring, management skills and management practice for the built environment. These are free for those who want to gain their first Level 3 qualification.

Praising Reaseheath’s efforts to deliver technical innovation within the land-based sector, Edward Timpson said: “I am delighted with the advancements made at Reaseheath College over the past year. As a rural community, more needs to be done to raise our technological profile, so I am glad that the college is showcasing some of its work.

“It has been positive to see the cooperation in Cheshire between the Government, our Local Enterprise Partnership, and our schools and colleges in ensuring all young people have equal educational opportunities—both vocational and academic.”

Reaseheath Principal Marcus Clinton said: “I was proud to show Edward the technical advancement on campus. It is this leading edge approach which puts our college and university centre among the leading landbased educational institutions in the country.”