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Teaching comes full circle at Harper Adams University

Posted 30 September

A team of Harper Adams University engineering students have completed work on a crop sprayer of the future for Syngenta UK. At every step of the process, the team was working with Harper graduates; James Thomas, Syngenta’s Head of New Farming Technologies and Senior Agricultural Engineering Lecturer Kit Franklin.

The four students, Sam Crouch, Matt Deane, James Vining and Richard Davies, were quick to laud Harper’s industry connections and how helpful they were in completing the project. Sam, James and Richard are all studying MEng Agricultural Engineering; the same course as their client, James Thomas, graduated from in 2013.

MSc Engineering Business management student and BEng Agricultural Engineering graduate Matthew, 24, said: “Doing the integrated MEng course has been challenging, but also very rewarding. For our fifth and final year, we’ve been working on a group project for Syngenta, which has brought all of our previous years of study and skills together.”

The multiple chemical, variable rate injection spray system the team have been working on is a response to an increase in the need to ensure products are applied in a more accurate and effective way, to maximise their efficacy. The system will still use Plant Protection Products but will deploy them more accurately and efficiently; targeting individual crops exactly where they’re needed.

James, 23, elaborated: “We have been managing quite a substantial budget to buy parts for the system we designed. It was the most commercially applicable experience we’ve had as engineers in our whole time at Harper Adams. We had to design it, refine it, present it, then order it and then present it again.”

Richard, 23, said: “Going through the whole process and working with external companies to subcontract some of the work was definitely one of our most valuable learning experiences from our degree. It felt like a project you’d be given in an industry job.”

On how the team performed, and the experience of working with Harper students as a Harper graduate, James said: “Not only did the team come up with a solution that is both feasible and potentially commercially viable but they also showed great practical problem solving and communications skills which are a real must for this industry. They were keen to get stuck in with all aspects of the project which, impressively, came in under budget.”

Sam, 23, talked about how the team divided the tasks to bring the project to completion: “There were a lot of specialisms within the job so we broke it up so one of us worked with the simulations, one of us worked on the electrics and the other two guys worked on ordering parts and fitting on the mechanical side of things.”

As the look towards graduation, Matthew added: “There’s a lots of expertise at Harper; the connections that Harper are a great help.

“Everywhere you go, you’ll find someone that’s studied agricultural engineering at Harper. You’ll always be meeting Harper graduates.”

Senior Agricultural Engineering Lecturer, Kit Franklin said: “It’s really important to Harper Adams to have the support from our industry partners. The opportunity for our students to work with these connections are what make our courses so valuable and our engineers truly industry ready upon graduation.”

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