Zooming into the farm with ERT

Drone Photo: Rob Grange Photography

Managing water and air quality on the farm is an essential skill for the next generation of farmers, and a subject close to our heart.

To bring the subject to life for agricultural students, we have been involved with the organisation of The Great Farm Challenge over the past few years. With a mix of talks from government agencies and utility provider, United Utilities (UU), plus demos and a farm visit, the challenge’s aim was to increase awareness of best practice with students from Newton Rigg College.

However, this year the Coronavirus pandemic meant that the challenge wouldn’t be going ahead as normal.

Despite this, Andy Dyer, our Senior Farming and Conservation officer along with Dan Stamper from Newton Rigg College were determined to find a way to give students a chance to still hear from experts and apply their learning to a real-life farm.

It was time for a rethink.

Re-imagined as a virtual event, the re-named “Waste and Pollution Day” would be brought direct to students through the power of Zoom.

On 3 December, 26 second-year students studying the City and Guilds – Advanced Extended Technical Diploma in Agriculture settled down in the comfort of their classroom to hear from United Utilities, Catchment Sensitive Farming, the Environment Agency and Eden Rivers Trust.

The speakers talked about key topics such as the importance of peatlands and how to prevent pollution and deal with issues before they become a big problem. Other hot topics were also covered, including the storage and management of slurry and silage and understanding the legislation in place to protect watercourses (SSAFO and Farming Rules for Water).

To recreate the farm visit, we commissioned a drone survey of a local farm, giving the students a unique, birds-eye view of the challenges facing the farm and the opportunity to look at the farm as a whole business.

The students were then given some information about the farm and challenged to complete a workbook; answering questions based upon what they had learnt that morning.

In a follow-up session on 4 February, Andy discussed the answers with the students and awarded prizes to the students gaining the top three marks.

Congratulations go to the following prize winners:

1st place: Tom Patchett

2nd place: Yanni Kitson

3rd place: John Crowther


Andy Dyer, Senior Farming and Conservation Officer, Eden Rivers Trust said:

The Trust values highly the opportunity to work with industry professionals, the college and students in promoting initiatives such as this. In previous years, Newton Rigg College students have excelled in the regional heats of the Great Farm Challenge and as the subjects of waste, pollution and water quality are now embedded in the City and Guilds curriculum it makes perfect sense for the Trust to be involved.

We have a critical role to play in helping today’s students understand more about these important subjects and how their farming businesses of the future can play a part in ensuring that the condition of our watercourses and the quality of our air are maintained to very high standards.


Dan Stamper, Senior Lecturer – Agriculture | LAND, Newton Rigg College said:

During the course of their studies, students learn the nutrient values of farm wastes and their responsibilities in terms of environmental legislation.  The Waste and Pollution day adds an extra level of detail to the students’ understanding and we are extremely grateful to all involved for giving up their time and expertise.


We would like to thank everyone who took part – Clare Bullen, United Utilities, Susan Kensworthy, Catchment Sensitive Farming, John Stalker, Environment Agency, and Caroline Holden, United Utilities Land Agent, and special thanks to Messrs Braithwaite of Scales Farm for allowing us to look closely at their farming practices and to understand how they help UU by keeping clean and dirty water separate on their farm and protecting drinking water supplies.

Some of the special guest speakers at the Waste and Pollution Day

Scales Farm drone survey

copyright Rob Grange

Follow up Teams call


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Eden Rivers Kingfisher Icon