Hartpury’s future is set as pioneering Digital Innovation Farm reinforces Gloucestershire as centre of Agri-Tech innovation

19 October 2021

It is widely known that Gloucestershire is well positioned to place itself as the natural home of Agri-Tech. With two major R&D assets located in the county; Hartpury University & College and the Royal Agricultural University; this collective strength breaks barriers for the adoption of new technology and best practices.

Gloucestershire historically has a strong and established agricultural background and currently generates £1.39 billion for Agri-food supply chain These two centres of excellence specialise in emerging Agri-tech; agri-food supply chain, ecology and agri-business & enterprise.

At the very heart of this emerging technology is Hartpury College and University which has an international reputation as one of the UK’s leading specialist education providers in agriculture, animal, equine, sport and veterinary nursing.

The state-of-the-art campus, located a short drive from Gloucester, has received over £50 million in recent investment and boasts the world’s largest equine educational facility, fully equipped science laboratories and most recently it’s impressive Agri-Tech Centre and its latest industry driven project the Digital Innovation Farm; accelerator site – Tech Box Park.

The construction of the £2 million Tech Box Park project commenced in September and will see Hartpury further develop its 360-hectare campus and expand its range of agriculture facilities to meet the global demand for new technology in farming. Funding successfully bid for by GFirst LEP from Government’s  ‘Getting Building Fund’, the European Regional Development Fund and the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust has enabled this new project to emerge and includes the recently launched Agri-Tech Centre.

Hartpury’s intentions are to lead the way in radically shaping the future of digital farming. The site will include five Tech Box accelerator units for Gloucestershire based Small and Medium sized enterprises. Solving ‘real world’ agricultural challenges, this cutting-edge workspace provides a self-contained platform for desk-based research and development. Designed by ISO spaces, the 16t x 40ft High-Cube units will be created using environmentally friendly repurposed shipping containers clad in cedar wood.

The project will also provide businesses with access to Hartpury’s commercial farm; Home Farm; support packages and a series of events and networking opportunities for feasibility testing and practical trials. The vision is that businesses can explore, test, research, develop and enhance existing products and provide a dynamic environment that will lead to growth, investment and success.

There is a dedicated team in place to support businesses and packages will include Innovation for Environmental Sustainability; Product Development & Testing; Field Validation & Market Testing and Marketing & Promotion. There will also be a series of free workshops running along these themes which will be hosted at the Agri-Tech Centre. The launch session; Environmental Sustainability for Business Workshop will take place on Wednesday 17th November. (See below for further information).

As Tech Box Park aims to provide a key opportunity for innovation, the project is offering an ‘Innovation Voucher’ for those eligible businesses who have completed 12 hours of engagement at the park through workshop attendance; trialing & testing and product validation. When businesses spend £10k they will receive up to £5k contribution. The voucher may be used for product or service development; product enhancement; process improvement or enhancement – where innovation expenditure enables growth, businesses can apply.

Russell Marchant, Vice-Chancellor of Hartpury University and Principal of Hartpury College, said: “This new ground-breaking facility will combine our agricultural campus, commercial farm and strong industry connections with agri-technology companies to address the inevitable challenges of a digitally driven future.”

David Owen, Chief Executive of GFirst LEP, Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, commented: “GFirst LEP is delighted to support this state-of-the-art and exciting project at Hartpury University and Hartpury College. The project has received funding of £1.25m from the ‘Getting Building Fund’ to create new innovation and demonstration workspace for high growth SMEs in Gloucestershire.”

The first Digital Innovation Farm Tech Box Park Unit has been reserved by Novazera, a UK company that creates biodegradable plastic alternative products and ground-breaking anti-viral and bacterial coatings.

The new Tech Box Park is due to open later this year, with Hartpury appointing Project Lead, Vitruvius Management Services who will manage the project through construction to handover.

The team are keen to hear from local businesses in the sector who are looking at innovation to enable growth and will benefit from the suite of services the project can provide. For more information regarding the project visit www.hartpury.ac.uk/techboxpark or email enquiries.DIA-T@hartpury.ac.uk

The GFirst LEP Inward Investment team is an ERDF funded project who work in collaboration with Hartpury and aims to facilitate investment, innovation and growth to the region, find out more here.

Upcoming Workshop Information:


Cut through the noise to understand what sustainability priorities are needed for your business right now

Date: Wednesday 17 November 2021

Time: 1-5pm

Venue: Agri Tech Centre, Hartpury University and Hartpury College

Discover how to drive change within your organisation and deliver on key benchmarks for a sustainable future.

Join Hartpury’s Digital Innovation Farm Tech Box Park and presenter Eoin McQuone of Sustainable Business Design and Go Climate Positive to better understand and identify both the environmental and business case for sustainability for your business.

For further details about the free support available through the Hartpury Tech Box Park Programme, and to book a place on this workshop please contact a member of the Tech Box Park team via enquiries.DIA-T@hartpury.ac.uk or telephone 01452 702546.

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