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09.06.06
Agri-Food Innovation Centre investment approved

Work is about to begin on a new Agri-Food Innovation Centre that will give a massive boost to regional food producers.

The final piece of investment has now been approved for the Agri-Food Innovation Centre, which will be built at the Duchy College site, in Stoke Climsland and is being welcomed by leaders in the South West food industry. The building will form part of a Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) for Food and Drink Technologies in the South West in conjunction with Hartpury College, Gloucestershire.

Investment in the Agri-Food Innovation Centre will total about £4.7 million. Of this sum, almost £1.2 million from the Objective One EAGGF (European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund) has recently been approved with the same amount from Defra. The project is being lead by Cornwall College and is part of a wider expansion of higher education enabled by the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative.

The centre will offer a range of facilities including training for new entrants and those already involved in the agri-food sector, facilities for small businesses looking to develop products and marketing, higher education qualifications, top quality research facilities and meeting rooms.

Phil Le Grice, director of Trials and Research at Duchy College, said: "We want the Agri-Food Innovation Centre to be seen as something of genuine regional and national significance. This is all about adding value for the region. It will be a flagship centre that will hopefully inspire new entrants and those already in the industry."

Peter Hardaker, chairman of the Cornwall Agricultural Council, added: "We have already invested over £25 million EAGGF from the Objective One Programme into the added value food processing sector. This figure is matched by £25 million from Defra and this in turn has levered in over £50 million from the private sector. This £100 million investment portfolio has generated significant growth in this sector and more importantly created a larger market for quality local produce grown and produced on Cornish farms.

"The creation of the Agri-Food Innovation Centre is another piece in the jigsaw of support for this sector and will provide a facility that will offer training, innovation, new product development and other support services. This project fits well with the vision of the Cornwall Agricultural Council and will make a significant contribution to our strategic goals."

With more than 3,500 food and drink related businesses in the South West the sector has been identified in the South West Regional and Economic Strategy as being a priority area for the region's future economy.

Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Objective One Partnership, said: "This is an important investment in one of the staples of the Cornish economy – local produce. This centre will give tremendous support to those working to add value to their agricultural products. By using knowledge, research and innovation they will be able to improve the quality of their products and bring new products to the market."

Michael Horrell, of Lynher Dairies Cheese Company is also chairman of the Agri-Food Steering Group. He explained: "In our early days as farmhouse cheese makers, it would have been a tremendous asset to enjoy such a facility in the county, providing training, technical and business support for a new venture. I am sure that both start-up and established enterprises will feel a benefit in the future."

It is expected that the building will be ready for use in September 2007 but recruiting has already begun for modules of an Agri-Food Foundation Degree which is starting this September (2006).

The Foundation Degree is run by Duchy College in partnership with the CUC, including the University of Plymouth who accredit the award. It will offer the opportunity to specialise in one of four areas – Food Manufacturing Technology, Food Health and Nutrition, Food and On-Farm Processing and Food Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Foundation Degree can be taken on a full-time, part-time, or flexible stand alone module basis making the course available to those already in employment.

John Latham, CEO and Principal of the Cornwall College Group, said: "I am impressed by the vision and dynamism of all those involved in this collaborative project so far. The Agrifood Centre at Duchy College will be a valuable training and development resource for businesses in the area and will increase higher education opportunities in a very important sector for the region."

Angie Coombs from Taste of the West said: "This is such an exciting project and so badly needed in the region. The fantastic developments in the food and drink industry in the South West in the last few years need to be underpinned by sound technical and educational support opportunities to continue the growth. I am certain that the Agri-Food Centre will enable the South West to lead the way as a centre of excellence for food production."

Traci Lewis, manager of Organic South West, a Soil Association project working to develop organic food production in Cornwall said: "The Agri-Food Centre will offer a wonderful opportunity for the growing number of organic farmers and food producers in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to develop new organic products and add further value to their produce in county."

For further information please contact Clare Morgan on 01872 223439 or email: cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Agri-food Centre through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

Anyone considering a new horticulture, food and land based industries project is advised to speak with Martin Butler at Government Office South West on 01752 635134 before commencing development as there are now only limited funds available due to the successful uptake of funding by the agricultural sector in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

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Editor's notes:

£1,173,905 of EAGGF investment has been approved for the Agri-Food Innovation Centre.

Duchy College is part of the Cornwall College group and a partner in the Combined Universities in Cornwall.

The Combined Universities in Cornwall is a partnership that combines the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, University College Falmouth, The Open University, The College of St Mark & St John, and the Peninsula Medical School, with Cornwall's Further Education colleges - Cornwall College, Truro College and Penwith College. The CUC initiative has been invested in by the Objective One Programme, the South West Regional Development Agency, Cornwall County Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

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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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