HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Royal Agricultural University’s new Rural Innovation Centre on Monday 25th November.

The Prince, who is President of the University, met students, staff and industry specialists and viewed some of the more practical activities and workshops held at the Rural Innovation Centre.

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU), together with the Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust, has invested £1.2million in the new Centre on its farm at Harnhill, near Cirencester.

The RAU Rural Innovation Centre is an important development for the agricultural sector. It will enable the sharing of cutting-edge knowledge between those involved in agricultural production and those undertaking applied research, enabling the promotion of education, innovation and knowledge exchange in the “field”.

During his visit, HRH engaged with Royal Agricultural University students in an Arboriculture lesson and those in an Animal Husbandry laboratory session, where he joined the students in testing silage samples.

RAU Principal, Professor Chris Gaskell CBE, said: “The ambitions for the Rural Innovation Centre underpin the Royal Agricultural University’s goal to play a role in meeting the challenges of sustainably feeding a growing global population whilst stimulating growth, diverse employment opportunities, and economic activity in rural areas.”

Alongside the sharing of scientific research, the Centre will also enable the University to build on the vocational rural skills training it already provides to organisations and individuals.

The University received a grant of £50,000 from The Prince’s Countryside Fund to support the Centre in delivering vocational short courses, aimed at introducing local young people, especially those who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) to agricultural skills. HRH met some of the beneficiaries of the scheme including Harry May who was taking part in a taster day learning blacksmithing and iron work, dry stone walling and hurdle making.

Says Harry “I am really pleased to be learning a variety of useful skills, once I have completed the training programme I hope that I will get a job in my local area.  It’s great that places like this exist as I didn’t have the qualifications to go to university but this way I can still gain valuable experience relevant to the local job market”.

HRH also took the time to speak to some members of the RAU Students’ Union, who have chosen the Prince’s Countryside Fund as one of their RAG (Raising and Giving) charities for the year. The Prince was interested to learn about the various activities the degree students are planning in order to fundraise for the charity, which gives grants to projects that help support the people who care for the countryside.

Before departing, HRH laid a commemorative stone within a Cotswold stone wall being constructed as part of the day’s activities.