‘Liv­ing lab’ will ad­dress chal­lenge of eth­i­cal food se­cu­rity

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - Countryside -

The world is fac­ing a ma­jor prob­lem of feed­ing an ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion, but a new cen­tre in Som­er­set, funded by a £1 mil­lion do­na­tion, will try to find solutions

AGROUNDBREAKING ‘liv­ing lab­o­ra­tory’ for live­stock is to be launched in Som­er­set to help ad­dress ma­jor is­sues fac­ing agri­cul­ture.

It will be es­tab­lished at Bris­tol Vet­eri­nary School, thanks to a £1 mil­lion do­na­tion from the John Ol­dacre Foun­da­tion.

The John Ol­dacre Cen­tre for Sus­tain­abil­ity and Wel­fare in Dairy Pro­duc­tion will tackle the global chal­lenge of eth­i­cal food se­cu­rity and train the next gen­er­a­tion of vets and agri­cul­tur­al­ists to help ad­dress the ma­jor is­sues fac­ing agri­cul­ture.

The world is fac­ing a huge prob­lem of feed­ing an ever-ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion with de­plet­ing agri­cul­tural re­sources.

At the cur­rent growth rate, by 2050 the equiv­a­lent of four-and-a-half ad­di­tional plan­ets will be needed to sus­tain ev­ery­one.

Live­stock farm­ing is part of the is­sue, but, more im­por­tantly, part of the so­lu­tion.

The John Ol­dacre Cen­tre, which will be based within Wyn­d­hurst Farm, the Univer­sity of Bris­tol’s com­mer­cially-run dairy unit at Lang­ford, will be equipped with the lat­est data col­lec­tion de­vices, such as mo­tion de­tec­tion, GPS track­ing and ther­mo­graphic sen­sors to gather data that will iden­tify and sup­port changes in agri­cul­tural prac­tices.

It will bring to­gether col­leagues from en­gi­neer­ing, data and be­havioural sci­ences to use tech­nol­ogy, such as mo­tion sens­ing, to iden­tify small be­havioural and phys­i­o­log­i­cal changes at the begin­ning of a dis­ease, such as mas­ti­tis.

The vet school is al­ready work­ing with col­leagues in life sci­ences, us­ing ther­mog­ra­phy as a novel way of pre­dict­ing dis­ease, which can re­veal very quickly which cow is ill – the ear­lier a dis­ease can be de­tected, the eas­ier it is to treat ef­fec­tively.

As well as be­ing a re­search re­source, the cen­tre will teach un­der­grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate stu­dents in an­i­mal pro­duc­tion and live­stock re­search, un­der­stand­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing data, and en­gage­ment with the wider farm­ing com­mu­nity.

In hon­our of the do­na­tion, the school will sup­port post­grad­u­ate stu­dentships each year.

Work car­ried out at the cen­tre aims to iden­tify key problems and new re­search ques­tions, as well as find solutions.

The cen­tre will also ed­u­cate fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of stu­dents and equip them with an un­der­stand­ing in the field of sus­tain­able dairy pro­duc­tion and wel­fare, shar­ing the ben­e­fits with the UK and global farm­ing com­mu­nity.

Head of Bris­tol Vet­eri­nary School, Pro­fes­sor Richard Ham­mond, said: “With over 50 years of world-lead­ing teach­ing and re­search in an­i­mal wel­fare and farm­ing, the Bris­tol Vet­eri­nary School can make a vi­tal con­tri­bu­tion to this crit­i­cal chal­lenge.

“Thanks to this gen­er­ous do­na­tion from the John Ol­dacre Foun­da­tion, we can em­bark on pi­o­neer­ing new re­search that we hope will play a vi­tal role in ad­vanc­ing sus­tain­able farm­ing and an­i­mal wel­fare and tackle some of the ma­jor agri­cul­ture is­sues that face the world to­day.”

Henry Shouler, chair­man of trustees of the John Ol­dacre Foun­da­tion, said: “The trustees of the John Ol­dacre Foun­da­tion are de­lighted to have en­tered into an agree­ment with the Bris­tol Vet­eri­nary School that en­sures John’s legacy is main­tained in per­pe­tu­ity through the re­search and ex­pe­ri­ence of the foun­da­tion schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ents.”

The do­na­tion marks a long-stand­ing part­ner­ship be­tween the John Ol­dacre Foun­da­tion and the univer­sity.

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