A groundbreaking ceremony has been performed at Hartpury to mark the start of construction on its new £2 million Agri-Tech Centre.

Russell Marchant, Vice-Chancellor of Hartpury University and Principal of Hartpury College, cut the first turf at the site of the world-leading education, training and research hub for Hartpury students, the wider education sector, regional producers and processors.

Guests included Clive and Sylvia Richards, whose charity has donated £150,000 towards funding for the Agri-Tech Centre, and many Agriculture students at Hartpury who will have access to the facility.

They were joined by David Owen, Chief Executive of the GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, which has provided £1 million in match funding.

The Agri-Tech Centre will utilise and demonstrate the latest smart farming techniques and illustrate the importance and impact of science and technology in agriculture.

Russell Marchant said: “Breaking the turf today on our new Agri-Tech Centre is an exciting occasion for Hartpury because it takes us a step closer to where we see the future of agriculture.

“I’m delighted to welcome Clive and Sylvia Richards, and David Owen from GFirst LEP, all of whose fantastic support has helped to make it all happen.

“We’re certain that the future of agricultural production and the many different aspects of agriculture and the countryside will be increasingly based on technology as we move forward.

“This is what our Agri-Tech Centre is all about, taking that new technology and applying it on our commercial farm on campus – Home Farm – and allowing students and industry to benefit from hands-on experience of using that technology.

“It will enhance knowledge of applied science and technology for our agricultural diploma and degree students and provide an opportunity for the practical application of science for A-level students.

“The project will move our industry forward, help it to improve its use of technology, enhance the status of livestock agriculture and boost the rural economy in Gloucestershire and beyond.”

Students at Hartpury will have access to the Agri-Tech Centre in September, ahead of an official opening ceremony in October.

The Agri-Tech Centre is part of Hartpury’s Tech to Plate project, which is aimed at improving the productivity of livestock and generating higher quality products for consumers.

David Owen said: “GFirst LEP is delighted to support the innovative and exciting Agri-Tech project at Hartpury University and Hartpury College.

“This is the first time GFirst LEP and Hartpury have partnered together on a project and it’s timely that it falls so soon after Hartpury gained university status.

“The ‘Tech-to-Plate’ initiative compliments previous GFirst LEP-funded projects within the county, namely Farm 491 at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, and will lead the work of increasing productivity in this important sector for the county.”

Hartpury is a specialist educational provider located in Gloucestershire with more than 3,600 college and university level students studying postgraduate and undergraduate degrees, A-levels and diplomas in the areas of sport, equine, animal, agriculture and veterinary nursing.

Located close to Gloucester and Cheltenham, Hartpury University and Hartpury College sit alongside one another on the same 360-hectare campus that has benefited from more than £50 million of investment over the past 20 years.