Researchers at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) are launching a new partnership with Coleg Cambria Llysfasi which aims to encourage farmers in Wales and further afield to incorporate cutting edge innovations on their farms.
The £370,000 PreciseAg project focuses on precision livestock farming for a sustainable Welsh agricultural industry and is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales – HEFCW.
The partnership will research the use of ‘precision livestock agriculture’ or ‘smart farming’ tools on farms managed by Aberystwyth University and at Llysfasi.
Dr Hefin Williams, who is leading the team at IBERS, said: “Grassland based livestock agriculture dominates the Welsh agricultural industry and its state is strongly linked to the wellbeing of the Welsh rural economy, the Welsh language and its associated communities.
“Uncertainty currently surrounds the implications of Brexit for farm support and continued access to current export markets.
“It is therefore more important than ever to ensure that the Welsh agricultural industry is as competitive and resilient as possible and there is considerable scope to achieve this by incorporating cutting edge innovations into the industry.”
Precision livestock farming is the use of motion, temperature, pH and sound sensors, amongst others, to predict the behaviour, health, reproductive and physiological state of livestock, giving for example, early warning of disease.
These tools have potential benefits for the Welsh farming industry to improve the ability of farmers to look after their livestock as well as increasing the efficiency of livestock enterprises.
The PreciseAg project will further strengthen the established working relationship between Aberystwyth University and Coleg Cambria by enabling Further Education colleagues to access research expertise at IBERS to enhance their current offering to students.
Iain Clarke, Head of Llysfasi said: “The use of smart and precision farming technology is an essential part of future farming, which will ensure that we maximise efficiency from our resources at the same time as ensuring that our actions don’t have negative impacts on the environment.
“Our work with Aberystwyth University on the PreciseAg project is the start of a long lasting partnership which will be of major benefit to Welsh and UK farming as a whole, through knowledge exchange of leading research into tangible solutions direct onto the farm.
“Students from both organisations will have major involvement in research projects and this will enable them to be better equipped for their future careers in the agricultural industry”.
Teaching materials will be developed for use at Coleg Cambria and Aberystwyth University in the first instance, with a view to rolling this provision out to other Further Education providers in Wales.
Llysfasi Farm Manager Dewi Jones said: “We are delighted to be working with Aberystwyth University on this project with the aim of using precision agriculture techniques to make our farms more productive and efficient.
“It is essential that what we learn by undertaking this work reaches the industry quickly, especially as farmers will need to meet future challenges head on. Llysfasi farm has a strong commercial ethos, which helps ensure that what we learn can be applied effectively within the wider industry.
Equally, if something new does not work, at least we have found out early on before it is widely adopted.”
The partnership will work closely with Farming Connect to provide information on the outcomes of the project to farmers across Wales through a range of events and materials.
Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences
Coleg Cambria Llysfasi
Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock