Reaseheath College is helping to champion the rising agri-tech sector through active involvement with Agri-Tech West (ATW), an alliance of businesses, public sector and industry organisations and educational institutions.
The college, which will complete the construction of its £7 million Advanced Engineering and Agri-Tech Centre this summer, is working with its ATW partners to support the government’s aim of making the UK a world leader in agri-food technology. The challenge is to provide a growing global population with sustainable, nutritious, affordable and high-quality food through the use of new technology and products.
Agri-Tech West has been formed by four Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – Cheshire and Warrington, Stoke and Staffordshire, Worcestershire and The Marches – to identify collaborative initiatives within its region to support the agricultural and food manufacturing sector.
Delegates from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department for Business, Enterprise Innovation and Skills, the Department for International Trade and representatives from colleges, universities and businesses within the ATW region met at Reaseheath to discuss how best to shape the future of the consortium.
Presenting an overview, Claire Bridges, Strategy and Partnership Executive, Worcestershire LEP, emphasised that the region could offer wide-ranging specialisms from soil protection and science to robotics and genetics and has become a prime location for global agri-food businesses. It already has a diverse agri-food sector with small and large food and drink manufacturers and well-established supply chains.
It also has a high profile engineering and technology sector and globally renowned land-based and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) educational institutions including Reaseheath. This network of universities and colleges is undertaking research and trials into a wide range of innovative technologies and practices that could improve productivity in agriculture and food production.
Among ATW’s targets for the next two years include the creation of 120 new apprenticeships and 240 new jobs, to support the development of 40 new products, processes or systems, and to provide business support for 300 small and medium businesses. This could be met by combining the region’s wealth of talent, knowledge and skills.
Said Claire: “The region has huge potential to lead technological innovation across the food supply chain at a national and global level. The UK’s decision to leave the EU is strengthening the Government’s focus on helping UK businesses and renewing efforts to create trade deals with the rest of the world. ATW sees this as an opportunity, attracting inward investment and exporting innovation to help the agri-food sector meet the challenges of global food security, climate change and declining natural resources.”
The seminar, which was facilitated by Peter Davenport of Stoke and Staffordshire LEP, continued with presentations by Dr Katharina Reusch, an IBM Research UK data scientist, and by Sam Watson-Jones, Co-Founder of Small Robot Company. It was followed by roundtable discussions between delegates on future aims and objectives and a tour of Reaseheath’s industry standard food processing halls
Reaseheath Principal Meredydd David said that the seminar had offered an excellent opportunity to share best practice and to focus on how to generate best value for the region, its businesses and the country as a whole through shared resources.