Since September, Hadlow College students have been cultivating and managing a three-hectare sustainable ‘concept’ orchard and vineyard using cutting-edge technologies and automated systems.
Hadlow is the first UK college to give its students the opportunity to be at the forefront of exciting changes in the farming sector by gaining practical, hands-on experience of sustainable fruit growing.
Developed in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and local industry specialists, this innovative project focuses on decarbonisation and addressing skills shortages in the food production industry.
The aim is to develop concepts for a more efficient and sustainable farming industry, with the help of the latest technologies in automation and AI.
Why is the project so important?
It’s predicted that by 2050 the world will need approximately 70% more food than is currently being produced to sustain the growing world population. Meanwhile, UK growers are battling with severe shortages in available labour.
Sustainable farming techniques revolve around optimally using natural resources while not harming the environment. Technology and automation can help make certain tasks faster, more efficient and more economical compared to traditional methods.
Learning employable skills
Hadlow College students will be instrumental in meeting the needs of a changing world in terms of increased food production, sustainable use of natural resources, waste reduction and recycling, and using less energy.
Alongside more traditional horticultural methods, students will gain valuable employable skills in using drones, robotic fruit pickers, weather sensors and simulations to assist in food production.
A section of the orchard has been devoted to viticulture where students will be trained in how to set up and manage a vineyard. The rest of the orchard will be used to train students in sustainable orchard management with crops including apples, pears, cherries, apricots and other prunus.
You can find out more about the project and apply for a place at hadlow.ac.uk/future.