ARTIS responds to industry demands for skills-based training

A new, industry-focused training academy will keep farmers, growers and advisers up to date with the latest crop production technologies and practices demanded by the UK’s £100bn food chain.

ARTIS (Agri-Tech Register and Training for Innovation and Skills) has been developed to address the current fragmented approach to training provision which is holding back the competitiveness and profitability of UK agriculture. Evidence demonstrates that the farming industry lags significantly behind other sectors in its uptake of training opportunities, with just 41% of farm businesses providing training to their staff compared with a national average of 65%.

ARTIS’ core objective is to improve the consistency, quality and accessibility of training – delivered in a usable and relevant format – for businesses and employers of all sizes operating in the arable, vegetable and fruit sectors.

Led by NIAB, G’s Growers, LANTRA and East Malling Research, ARTIS provides a new mechanism to support knowledge exchange between the research base and industry. The three-year, £3.6m programme is supported by £1m in Government funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), alongside industry co-investment.

Central to the ARTIS project is a network of employer-led steering groups covering arable crops, vegetable and salad crops, fruit and soils. These steering groups bring researchers, farmers and agronomists together with the technical representatives of major supermarkets and food processors to identify key research outcomes and topics with immediate practical and commercial benefit for growers and the entire food supply chain.

Unveiling the first set of ARTIS training courses for arable, vegetable and salad growers, Sir Jim Paice MP, ARTIS Steering Board Chair, said:

“The UK Agri-Tech Strategy has signalled a renewed policy emphasis on productive, hi-tech agriculture, highlighting the vital role of applied research and increased collaboration between public and private sector. It also recognises the need to strengthen industry-level training and skills provision to support more effective uptake and application of research outputs. Sadly in the 35 years since I was a training officer it remains the case that many farmers are unwilling to invest in developing skills and knowledge.

“The ARTIS project responds directly to this challenge by ensuring that the knowledge transfer process is demand-led, based on the latest applied agricultural and horticultural research, and focused on delivering practical solutions to employers’ business needs.”

ARTIS training courses range from generic modules covering issues such as soil management, crop nutrition, spray technology and precision farming to more specific agronomy packages focused on helping growers protect and realise yield potential in particular crops. The training itself, delivered by accredited agronomists and trainers, is flexible and responsible to business needs, ranging from field, glasshouse and classroom-based sessions to interactive on-line academies.

NIAB’s Bill Clark believes there is a strong appetite among UK farmers and growers to access the latest research findings and advice:

“Although less than half of farm businesses currently provide training, our experience suggests that a much higher proportion are keen to access new knowledge and skills. Well over 90% of farmers attending NIAB open days this summer said they wanted to find out more about the training and knowledge transfer opportunities available.

“The challenge is to make training and skills development in the agri-tech sector more responsive and relevant to the needs of producers and their customers. ARTIS’ core objective is to ensure new technologies and practices with the potential to improve productivity and efficiency are transferred directly and in a usable form to farmers, growers and their advisers,” finished Mr Clark.

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