Future Farm

Future Farm, the first of its kind in England, aims to use ground-breaking technologies to drive improvements in efficiency, technology, animal health and welfare, and environmental best practice.

Future Farm's story

The Future Farm is Duchy College Cornwall's state-of-the-art research facility using scientific techniques to carry out research into eco-friendly farming. The facility was finished in November 2020 and cost £3.6 million. Supported by the European Regional Development Fund, UK Government, CIEL, Cornwall Council and the Council for the Isles of Scilly, the facility will house a herd of 225 Holstein cows and will focus on teaching and research as well as having a commercial emphasis as a working farm.

The two-acre facility will include a host of features, including an ability to split the College’s commercial Holstein Friesians into three mini herds, allowing measuring and comparison of different management techniques.

There will be a computerised, precision-control feeding system, plus an ability to separate slurry and manure from the different groups of animals, allowing multiple research projects to be run simultaneously – including exploring the storage, and spreading and treatment of slurry and manure.

One of these projects is the ABCD (Agriculture Bas Carbone Dairy) project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Working with Cornwall Council, local farmers, the council of Finistère and Trévarez Research Station in Brittany, France, the research team at Duchy College’s Future Farm will look at ways of reducing the carbon footprint of dairy farming in Cornwall and across the Channel. The project will focus on reducing methane produced by dairy cattle, zoning in particularly on the food they are fed, and the carbon footprint of getting it to the farm.

From this, the team at RBS want to calculate the net emissions that the herd are producing, monitored from cutting-edge sensors placed around the farm and on the cows themselves.
The research at Future Farm, from cow comfort to slurry management, is being taught to students to use in their own farms in the future.

Useful learnings from Future Farm

Agriculture has the potential to be part of the solution to the climate crisis, and the research we will carry out at the Future Farm in Cornwall will help farmers make informed choices about how they manage their land.

The research and programme manager at Duchy College’s Future Farm dairy research facility, Paul Ward, stated, “Soya bean is used widely in dairy cattle nutrition, as it is a high-quality protein source, but also has a high carbon footprint.”

“Using a soya bean meal-free diet resulted in a significant 8.6% reduction in carbon footprint, which is a great finding for dairy farmers worldwide.” Paul continued. The researchers found that milk production, milk quality, and body condition scores were unaffected.

Future Farm's metrics

Amount of carbon savings.
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Feeding robot distributes food more efficiently © Ruth Wills 2021.
Automated feed kitchen © Ruth Wills, 2021.
A dairy systems research and knowledge platform © Ruth Wills, 2021.