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    Posted 5 September 2003

    HARPER ADAMS University College in Newport, Shropshire, is launching a conference season and a new innovation centre this month. Harper Adams is the largest UK University College specialising in the rural economy and is acknowledged as a centre of excellence in teaching and its work with business, industry and rural agencies.

    The newly launched Centre for Rural Innovation is helping rural businesses and other organisations with new projects. The Centre aims to help the growth of the rural economy in rapidly changing times, and in the next three months is running several important conferences.

    The Centre is already running more than 50 projects, using the skills of Harper Adams and its many partners. Its services include business start-ups, research and advice in food, farming, engineering, tourism and the environment. A new website explaining the work of the Centre is now available at

    September has already seen two international conferences take place at the Shropshire campus.

    The first, from September 8 – 11, covered new developments in off-road vehicles such as JCBs, tractors and commercial ‘off roaders.’ This was the ninth European conference of the International Society for Terrain Vehicle Systems (ISTVS) with more than 100 delegates from around the world attending.

    Harper Adams also christened its new off-road vehicle facilities by providing white-knuckle trips around the test track for conference guests.

    Last Friday, September 12, the focus of the Centre for Rural Innovation moved to ‘Waste not, want not’ with the second national On-Farm Composting Conference. On-farm composting of town wastes is an exciting new business area. Farmers can take green waste and turn it into useful products such as soil improvers and composts.

    Harper Adams has a Business Club to help with planning aspects and the ‘know-how’ of composting. The club, called the On-Farm Composting Network, was started in 2001 after its first national conference. The club has an in-depth website at

    On Tuesday, September 23, Green Energy is the subject of the Renewable Energy Opportunities Conference.

    This national conference will match up landowners, local authorities and manufacturers interested in promoting renewable energy. Looking to the future, the countryside will be much more important in supplying energy for us all to use.

    Conference Organiser Dr Richard Byrne said: “Renewable energy can use natural resources such as wind, water, wood fuels and biogas. For example, a small hydropower plant can run from a fast flowing stream and provide enough electricity for a workshop to run. Renewable energy promises to deliver great things.”

    Looking ahead to November, two more Centre for Rural Innovation events will take place.

    ‘Energy and Fibre Crops – a regional perspective for the West Midlands,’ has been organised by Harper Adams and by DEFRA’s Central Science Laboratory. The event will take place on Wednesday, November 5.

    Through short talks and group discussions it will look at using and growing fibre and energy producing crops. Some new crops are used in manufacturing as well as for food. These can provide a boost to farmers wishing to try new business ideas. Existing growers will be talking about their experiences with these new crops.

    Next, on Thursday, November 13th, another Centre for Rural Innovation event takes place, called ‘A Taste for Tourism – Developing the regional food experience.’

    This event has speakers from the Heart of England Tourist Board, Heart of England Fine Foods and regional food businesses. It will also discuss ways in which local foods can be promoted as a tourist attraction.

    Specialist foods at the luxury end of the market are growing in sales and often have names linked to particular towns or regions. Harper Adams supports many Midlands food businesses through its Business Club, the Food Business Initiative and the College is promoting the West Midlands as the leading region for specialist food in the country.

    Further information on the Centre for Rural Innovation and these conferences is available from Mark Smith on 01 952 815 428 or by e-mail: (Ends)

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