Universities unite to improve farm research and innovation

Sixteen UK universities have come together to agree research and innovation priorities for agriculture. The aim is to help farmers meet net-zero and environment targets, while addressing biodiversity decline.

The Agricultural Universities Council (AUC) has been created in response to calls for more joined-up farm research and to ensure public investment in agricultural innovation makes a difference on the ground.

The council’s first project will be to map existing research capacity across the UK for the first time in a decade.

It will work with farmers, environmental, welfare and community groups, and food businesses to shape future research priorities.

Co-ordinate efforts

Rob Edwards, from Newcastle University and chairman of the AUC, said: “We already have a wealth of expertise and facilities for agricultural education and research across the UK, but we can make even more of it, with more benefit for farming and the public, if we co-ordinate our efforts.”

Harper Adams and the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) are among the members of the AUC.

Sharing research

Michael Lee, deputy vice-chancellor at Harper Adams University, said: “The research being carried out across the institutions which form the AUC is vital, enabling sustainable food and farming practices to be developed for coming generations.”

The new university coalition is part of the government’s plan to create a farming forum to share research and innovation that can help the industry.

Discussions will explore topics such as water quality and use on farm, the role of science and agri-tech in supporting food production, and solutions to reduce pollution and carbon emissions in the sector.

Water quality

The first meeting of the UK Agriculture Partnership took place at RAU last week and focused on water quality.

Speakers set out the challenges the UK is facing, and discussed solutions for improving water quality across the agriculture sector.

Defra secretary George Eustice said: “We are bringing together farmers, farming unions, environmental groups, agricultural colleges and associations so that we can tackle practical challenges together.”

Sources: DEFRA, Harper Adams University

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