Farming innovation centre at York to improve sector

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Long overdue investment in the country’s “crumbling” agricultural research facilities is about to see a new centre open in North Yorkshire that should lead to a more profitable livestock sector.

The Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock (CIEL) is due to be unveiled imminently at the former premises of science agency Fera at Sand Hutton near York.

The £86.5million project is being financially backed over five years by major universities, more than 80 companies and nearly 30 industry organisations, with £32m secured through the Government’s £90m Agri-Tech Strategy.

Specialising in research to develop ways of improving livestock welfare, herd efficiency and enhancing meat quality, the centre near York will act as a “front office” hub for research projects being carried out by academic and scientific institutes across the UK.

It will also be linked to other centres for innovation in different farming sectors. This will enable ideas that benefit these other sectors to easily be examined for how they may be adapted to boost livestock farming.

Jonathan Statham, partner of Ripon-based Bishopton Veterinary Group, one of the stakeholders in the centre, said CIEL was desperately needed to translate current research into commercial solutions for farmers.

Speaking at the NFU’s Northern Beef and Lamb Conference, Mr Statham said: “There has been a lack of investment (in research and development in agriculture) for 20 years.

“Our research farms and institutes are crumbling so big multi-nationals take their research projects abroad. It’s cheaper, it’s usually better and it has got some money to run it.

“If I have a project that is ready now, I’ve probably got to wait years in the queue because we haven’t got the infrastructure to do it. We have let it run down, we haven’t reinvested and because of that there’s no capacity.”

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