Plans are in progress to develop the UK’s first School of Sustainable Food and Farming at Harper Adams University, in Shropshire.
The school will draw on academic and practical expertise – and industry networks – to develop knowledge and skills for farmers and other supply chain businesses who are committed to reducing the environmental impact of food production.
Supported by Morrisons, with co-partner RAFT Solutions, the school will support research geared towards more sustainable farming. Topics will include livestock breed choice, yield improvements, building design and renewable energy.
Harper Adams deputy vice-chancellor Michael Lee said: “We are extremely excited to team up with Morrisons and RAFT Solutions to deliver this critically-needed collaboration which will support the transition to a more sustainable food system.”
Initial targets will centre on net-zero UK agriculture. But the ambition of the school will include wider aspects of sustainability including biodiversity, animal welfare, rural community support, green energy production and farm profitability.
The school will seek to develop practical advice and guidance to help farmers adjust their practices to be more sustainable. RAFT Solutions will play a key role in developing practical skills training associated with animal breeding and health.
Jonathan Statham, chief executive of RAFT Solutions, said: “The pressures on farming and farmers are intense but there are win-win opportunities where better animal health and welfare are better economically as well as better for the planet.
Prof Statham added: “Reducing the waste of poor health and reproductive inefficiency alongside delivering practical precision livestock farming solutions is where our work supports sustainable farming.”
Morrisons head of agriculture Sophie Throup said: “We are making a significant investment into this project as part of our pledge to be the first supermarket to be directly supplied by net zero carbon British farms by 2030.
Ms Throup added: We look forward to working as a partnership and to bringing the best brains together within the industry – to provide this new breadth of sustainability training for our British farmers.”
The school would include capital investment in farming projects, said Ms Throup. Work placements, apprenticeships and other development initiatives are also being considered to support the need for future sustainable food and farming professionals.