June 18, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

High-tech soil science lab secures £574k Good Growth investment

A new high-tech laboratory to help farmers, growers and horticulturalists in Cornwall manage their land and soils more sustainably and productively is being established at the Eden Project.

The Centre for Excellence in Land-Based Research and Knowledge Transfer is led by The Cornwall College Group (TCCG) in collaboration with the Eden Project.

It is being made possible by a £574,820 investment from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Good Growth programme, which is managed by Cornwall Council and funded by the UK Government though the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The Centre for Excellence will be based in Eden’s new geothermally-heated Growing Point nursery and will be equipped to perform cutting edge analysis of soils, plants and feedstock.

The intention is to help businesses become more productive and competitive, while supporting the environment and meeting their obligations in order to access future environment-based funding streams.

It comes at a crucial time for the agricultural industry which is seeing direct support payments from Government phased out in favour of new environmental land management and sustainable farming incentives.

The agri-food sector is vital to Cornwall’s economy and natural environment. Almost three quarters of all land in Cornwall and Scilly is farmed and the wider sector accounts for 13.4% of GVA (Gross Value Added) and 28% of employment, both significantly higher than the averages for England.

The Centre for Excellence aims to equip rural businesses with the knowledge and skills to manage natural resources sustainably, and impact positively on Cornwall’s environment and economy. It will support regenerative farming by advising on soil health and other issues including carbon sequestration, water retention, reduced flooding, biodiversity and habitat conservation and creation.

John Evans, Principal and CE of The Cornwall College Group, said: “This new centre will be a focus for knowledge and research collaboration among Cornwall’s land-based industries. It will create a unique high tech hub for soil science and stimulate innovation and growth, making the sector more resilient and diverse while helping to grow and enhance our environment.”

Dan Ryan, Head of Higher Education at the Eden Project, said: “We hope that this new Centre for Excellence will help revolutionise regenerative agricultural practices in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Not only will it benefit local farmers and growers, it will contribute to a greener, more prosperous future for the region in a way that sees us all working with, for and as part of nature. We are hugely excited to host this within our new Growing Point nursery and to collaborate to make positive strides in this sector.”

Funding for the project has come from the Good Growth Programme, which has been allocated £132m from the UK Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund over three years. It is managed by Cornwall Council is being invested in accordance with the Good Growth SPF Investment Plan, with a focus on green and inclusive growth.

Louis Gardner, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for economy, said: “This new Centre for Excellence goes to the heart of our Good Growth programme by promoting environmental research and innovation in a key sector of our economy. Clean and circular economic development is a cornerstone of what we are trying to achieve, and this project will support those ambitions while boosting our natural capital and rural businesses.”

To find out more about the Shared Prosperity Fund and the projects it is supporting in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, visit the Good Growth website.