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24.04.06
actnow sets out to take Cornish farming into the digital age

actnow, the Objective One project that is led by Cornwall Enterprise and has spearheaded the take up of broadband by businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, is now set to drive the use of broadband to new heights amongst the farming community. The South West of England Regional Development Agency has awarded actnow additional funding so the project can increase its support to farms and smallholdings in Cornwall.

"actnow has been promoting broadband specifically to farmers for 18 months," said Project Director Nigel Ashcroft, "and so far, we have helped 350 farms. With this additional round of funding, we have formed a dedicated agricultural team and our target is to support at least a further 560 in the next two years. We have been working closely with organisations such as the Cornwall Agricultural Council and Cornwall Quality Livestock Producers," Nigel continues.

"It is inspiring to see how avidly the farming community is embracing the benefits of broadband. We have already achieved growth of broadband amongst businesses in Cornwall that is ahead of any other rural area of the UK. Now, we are aiming to achieve a rate of broadband use amongst farmers in Cornwall that is also leading the UK. This will give our farmers a competitive edge."

Broadband is already making a huge difference to the farm businesses that are making use of the new technology. Patricia James of Folly Farm, a 185 acre dairy and beef farm near Penzance says: "With our old dial up internet connection, it used to take me ages to do a batch of passports. Since we have had broadband, it rarely takes me ten minutes. I don't know how we managed without it."

Charles James, also of Folly Farm, added: "We have made significant savings by purchasing supplies online. It's also very useful to be able to access information quickly on anything from new product developments to the latest milk quota prices. With broadband, the connection is permanently on, so with just one quick trip to the computer, I can buy what I need or check something out."

In addition to subsidising the cost of connection to broadband, actnow can offer financial assistance and free expert advice to farms to help them upgrade their IT systems. This could include, for example, software specially designed for farms to make running the business easier and more efficient, laptop computers and other handheld devices, websites and much more.

Martyn Warren, Director of the Rural Futures Unit at the University of Plymouth, says: "This is a very significant development, as it is very unusual to see such rapid growth in the use of broadband in the farming community. There will be many valuable lessons here for other rural areas to learn from the Cornish experience."

Fabian King, Head of Regional ICT at the South West Regional Development Agency says: "Farming is undergoing a period of intense change and transformation. With broadband, it is easier to take advantage of new opportunities and save valuable time on paperwork and compliance. Broadband can open up new markets for farm businesses as well as revolutionise the way the business is run."

David Rodda of Cornwall Agricultural Council said: "High speed internet access is becoming ever more important for farmers and other land based businesses with the introduction of digital mapping and electronic data transfer. actnow reduces the barriers to access and we would encourage all farmers and land based businesses to find out what broadband can do for your business."

actnow will be attending local agricultural events with their Broadband Demonstrator Vehicle and invites the farming community to ask for a demonstration of broadband in action. It is also possible to visit farms to show broadband in action and explain how it can benefit individual businesses.

The Broadband Demonstrator Vehicle will be at The Farmers Pavilion at the Royal Cornwall Show. For more information about actnow, farm businesses can call Paul Middleton on 0800 800 935 or email paul.middleton@actnowcornwall.co.uk.

For further information please contact Lynn File of actnow lynn@brandinnovation.co.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in actnow through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

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Editor's notes:

The actnow programme is a demand-led initiative to encourage businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to gain the support they need to move into the broadband economy. It is one of the largest private and public sector partnerships in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly since it was granted Objective One status by the European Union in 2000.

The £20 million project is part financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF). Other project partners include Cornwall Enterprise, the Objective One Partnership Office, BT, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the South West of England Regional Development Agency, Cornwall County Council, Business Link Devon and Cornwall and Cornwall College.

The Connecting South West programme brings together the South West of England Regional Development Agency, local authorities and business support organisations to ensure that businesses are aware of the opportunities available to help them use ICT to improve their business performance.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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