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Future Proofing The Waikato's Dairy Industry


December 4 2008

Future Proofing The Waikato Region's Dairy Industry

Wintec (Waikato Institute of Technology) has received funding to develop a showpiece agritechnology educational centre. The Tertiary Education Commission has approved funding of up to $930,500 over three years to establish the centre on AgResearch's farm at Tokanui, just south of Te Awamutu.

With the support of partners AgResearch, AgITO, Innovation Waikato and the Coalition of 21st Century Schools, Wintec is to establish a centre that enables secondary school students, farmers, farm workers and tertiary students - including Wintec Bachelor of Technology students, to gain practical experience using the latest dairying technologies. AgResearch is currently converting its sheep and beef research farm into an 800-cow dairy farm that uses leading edge commercial practices. Wintec students, from short course and certificate to degree level, will be able to use the centre for their agriculture, science, information technology, engineering and agritechnology studies.

The Applied Agritechnologies Centre proposal had strong industry support for its collaborative nature and potential and aims to provide a unique learning environment in science, technology and leading commercial practice for school children, farmer workers and undergraduates.

Wintec Science and Primary Industries head of School Rosemary Wyborn said Wintec and the AgITO had been actively exploring opportunities for collaboration and the project provided a platform for the two organisations to develop educational resources and demonstrate industry best practice.

She said the project was unique in that it will utilise a model research farm as the source of information and teaching material development.
Wintec as the lead tertiary education provider and the AgITO were committed to meeting the future needs of the sector and with AgResearch had worked together towards such a result for several years.

The Centre is to be established at the $6million AgResearch high performance model research farm at Tokonui which was the catalyst for the proposal.
"This venture will bring together the key commercial partners in the AgBio New Zealand Cluster and will sit alongside a leading edge dairy conversion being developed by AgResearch and equipped by leading commercial agritechnologies companies.

The Applied Agritechnologies Centre will comprise leading edge technology educational facilities alongside researchers and agritechnology companies to educate farmers and students in all aspects of high performing dairy farming.

High speed internet access will allow video streaming and conferencing so that training resources can be accessed by learners throughout the country.
"Students will be able to work with a range of farm generated data across environmental sustainability, production systems, waste management technologies and automation and technology including robotics," she said. "Secondary school students will be able to study science and agriculture in action."

The centre is due for completion by June 2009 with development of all integrated technologies and course development including a suite of certificate, diploma and degree level qualifications being developed over the following 12 months.


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