New Norfolk farming centre launched

Shaun LowthorpeA new centre to produce the next generation of farm workers and experts ready to tackle a 21st century farming revolution has been launched near Norwich.Shaun Lowthorpe

A new centre to produce the next generation of farm workers and experts ready to tackle a 21st century farming revolution has been launched near Norwich.

The Centre of Contemporary Agriculture (CCA) is an innovative partnership between Easton College, the University of East Anglia, the John Innes Centre and the Institute of Food Research which will equip students from college level to degree level with the skills they need to work in the industry and also lead research in to how to produce food sustainably in a era of rising populations, global warming, and food shortages.

Last night was the official launch of the CCA and the official opening of the new �15m Jubilee Building at Easton College, where many of the new courses and training programmes will take place.

Prof Edward Acton, vice- chancellor of the UEA, who conducted the official opening, said the partnership

And the recent volcanic ash incident stressed the importance of this country producing more of its own food in a sustainable way and came at a time of a new 21st century agricultural revolution.

'It signifies a very important step on the road to creating a national and internationally recognised centre here in the East of England to support the agri-food sector,' Prof Acton said. 'The centre is superbly placed to address some of the major global challenges of our time. It seems particularly appropriate to forge the centre in Norfolk, home of the first agricultural revolution.

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'It's a very exciting development for Norfolk and has major implications for the food industry here and across the globe.

Mike Gamble, chairman of Easton College, said the launch and the opening of the new centre marked the 'most important day' in the college's history.

'It will put Easton College and our partners on the map,' Mr Gamble said. 'The emphasis is very much on the 21st century and modern ways of doing things and the challenges of climate change, water shortages, and growing crops that are sustainable for the changed environment and a world that's short of food.'

Last night's launch was marked by an inaugural lecture by Prof Ian Crute, chief scientific officer for the agricultural and horticultural board.

Prof Crute applauded the partners for having the vision to set up the centre particularly at a time of uncertainty in public funding.

'It's tremendous to come and celebrate something being created of this nature,' Prof Crute said. 'Food is central in many different aspects of our life, in a political and economic sense, and because of the combination of climate change and global temperatures rising, Europe will become an increasingly important place in terms of global food production. But Europe is probably 10 years off the pace in realising how important it is in this context.'