Easton College welcomes visiting European students
Agriculture students from colleges in Austria, Estonia, Germany, and Luxembourg, were welcomed to Easton College last week to learn about some of the latest technologies in farming.
The visiting students and their teachers joined up with agriculture apprentices and lecturers from the college to share knowledge and gain practical experience of technologies that are transforming farming practices in East Anglia.
Students try out the latest tractor systems
The group’s busy schedule included an afternoon on the Euston Estate, near Thetford, where the students were given the chance to get hands-on with the latest apps, guidance systems, telematics, and displays, for optimising arable crop production and monitoring machinery performance.
Three leading manufacturers of agricultural machinery - CLAAS, John Deere, and New Holland – came together to give the students a unique practical learning experience.
Representatives from each manufacturer demonstrated the technology and its wide range of applications, before giving students the chance to get behind the wheel of their tractors and see the software in action.
Following the demonstrations, Easton College apprentice Jamie Hipperson, who is working towards the Level 3 Crop Technician Apprenticeship Standard, said:
On our farm we only use John Deere, so it’s good to see two other types of tractor, and two other types of technology, working in the same field - so you could compare them side by side. It’s definitely useful to be looking at the technology, and then linking it in with the college work that we do in the classroom, and then going back to work and implementing it at work.”
Charles Deltgen, one of the visiting agriculture students from Luxembourg, added:
It is important to know because this is going to grow. There is going to be more and more of these technologies in agriculture.”
Digital skills are needed alongside traditional agricultural knowledge
With 6,260-acres of farmland, the Euston Estate has a long-standing relationship with Easton College that has seen it regularly provide work placements to agriculture students from the college, as well as to students from the Czech Republic.
Matthew Hawthorne, Euston Estate’s Farm Manager, stresses that young people entering the agricultural industry still need a comprehensive understanding of the fundamentals and a knowledge of what’s happening in the field.
Alongside this, he says, they need practical experience of using the technology and systems that have become essential knowledge for anyone operating a tractor:
You used to get into a tractor years ago and it was about the engine and the gearbox and the power of it. Now, it’s about the operation of the terminal. To get the tractor to work as it should you’ve got to be able to understand and use the terminal. It’s vital that these youngsters are given the opportunity to get into a tractor and get hands-on experience of using this technology.”
Digitalis aims to develop digital skills in agricultural colleges
The visit was part of the Digitalis project, an Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, which aims to assist agricultural colleges, teachers and students in adapting to the increasing digitalisation of the sector.
In addition to visiting Euston Estate, the group also saw real-time digital monitoring of dairy cattle at Abbey Farm Dairy, in Binham. The students also took part in workshops related to other aspects of digitalisation within agriculture.
There was also time in the programme for the hosts and visiting students to socialise together and take in some quintessential Norfolk attractions, such as seal-watching at Blakeney Point.
Reflecting on the value of the project, Charlie Askew, Work-Based Learning Training Co-ordinator, Easton College, commented:
The theme of Digitalis is to develop new tools in education. There’s no better way than to go out into the industry, which is the end destination for all our students, to see what tools they use and how they use them. We want our students to develop those skills whilst they are in education, so they will arrive in industry not just ready to use the kit that they have got, but they are already thinking about ways that they can improve it.”
Matthew Hawthorne added:
There are strong places of innovative agriculture all over Europe and a lot of learning that can take place through projects like this. Sharing that experience and sharing that knowledge between students of different nationalities is very beneficial.”
For more information about the Digitalis project, go to https://europea.org/project/digitalis/.