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Project could make Lincolnshire a world leader in food science

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: August 09, 2011

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A CENTRE for world-beating research on food production could be built in the county.

The proposed National Agronomy Centre could make Lincolnshire a centre of excellence for the science behind crops and agriculture.

Plans for the project will be put forward in October as part of Lincolnshire Agricultural Society's master plan for the Showground.

Funding is expected to come from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

University of Lincoln director of enterprise Andrew Stevenson said the plans could help the county and the university gain an international reputation of excellence.

He said: "Since we established the relationship between Siemens and the engineering school, we have been looking to do something similar for the agricultural side of things.

"The chance to build this centre is really exciting, it will attract world experts and make Lincolnshire a pioneering county when it comes to the science behind sustainable food sources and crop production.

"It is certainly something that will bring wider benefits to the county.

"Lincolnshire is the centre of food production in the UK and our research will help those producers become more efficient.

"It also means their staff can train locally to becoming more technologically advanced in the way they operate.

"It would have great benefits to a large number of businesses in Lincolnshire."

The centre would take on students applying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as well as research fellows and existing members of staff in Lincolnshire businesses that would benefit from increased knowledge of agronomy.

The University of Lincoln is hoping its bid for £1.7 million of funding will be confirmed by the RGF so it can start making more concrete plans.

The plans are being support by the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

"We're looking at private sponsorship and potentially the Urban Development Fund to make up the rest of the money," said Mr Stevenson.

"It is going to be about a £7 million to £10 million project overall. The financial benefits it will attract are greater than that. Immediately it will create about 70 jobs, beyond that, when it is established, we are looking at about 200 more jobs in the area."

Agronomy is the science, economics, and application of soil and plant production with a strong emphasis in land management.

It is the application of a combination of sciences such as biology, chemistry, ecology, earth science and genetics and typically focuses on agriculture and its processes.

The National Agronomy Centre would be led in partnership between Frontier Agriculture the University of Lincoln and the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society.

Chief executive of the society Mark Farmer said: "Precision farming and agronomy sound like very specialist fields, but everybody needs to eat so in practical terms everyone will benefit into more sustainable farming methods and efficient ways of growing crops.

"This is really good news, not just for the industry but for the area.

"It will put Lincolnshire on the map as a world-leader in a very important research sector.

"At the moment it is just a concept, the University of Lincoln has a lot of plans on precisely how things will work but the first stage is getting the funding confirmed.

"Then we will include it in our outline planning application for the Showground master plan. it ties in with some plans for the Riseholme campus as well, the two are interlinked.

"We're hoping to submit that around October this year."

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