Some 30 research students have visited a number of agricultural and horticultural businesses with an aim to promote the next generation of technical experts in the industry.
The students from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) £1.4m programme visited six locations in north west England as part of a tour, including the Lancaster Environment Centre, seed suppliers Quantil Agriculture, the Lancaster Brewery, Huntapac – which grows, packs and distributes vegetables, brassicas and salads – and Lovania, a nursery which supplies over 30 million plants to 1,200 businesses every year.
The group are all undertaking doctorates in areas of research which are relevant to agricultural and horticultural industry priorities.
Georgina Key, who has completed a PhD, carried out roles in academia and industry, and is now employed by AHDB as a resource management scientist, said: “The value of getting out of the laboratory and into real-world situations can’t be underrated. It’s a means of stimulating innovation and increasing collaboration with the industries which could directly benefit from the student’s work, in the future.
“Their projects range from crop protection through to automation, but visiting sites and seeing how technology and science is applied in practice by businesses will inspire the students, helping them to ask more questions and stimulate new ideas.”
Working on plant diseases at a molecular level at East Malling Research Centre, PhD student Antonio Gomez added: “Visiting the brewery, we learned that the nicest and highest quality ingredients are chosen and blended carefully to make different beers – but an extra ingredient is essential to make it perfect. That’s science.”
Based near Ormskirk, arable farmer Andrew Webster explained to the group how AHDB’s Knowledge Exchange Programme and collaborating with manufacturers was key to him driving innovation in his farming business.
Webster said: “We wanted to improve nematicide incorporation to help protect crops grown on our farm. We approached a number of manufacturers to get machine trials, but we were turned down time after time because we simply did not have the right connections.
“Then we hosted an AHDB Potatoes event, benefiting from the cream of the industry crop turning up on our farm. Through that, building up our connections with industry and getting access to technology, we were able to innovate and develop a new piece of kit, which helps us control microscopic nematode worms on farm.
“Having that close relationship with researchers, agronomists and growers is essential to driving innovation across the industry.”