AGRICULTURE students put their skills to the test when they offered tips and advice to a successful dairy farm.

Reading University’s School of Agriculture, Policy and Development celebrated the 45th anniversary of its farm consultancy project by taking 33 students to the Farley Estate.

In collaboration with Barclays, students spoke to the estate’s managers and acted as consultants, before the bank’s staff grilled them over business plans with ideas for future development of the farm.

Agricultural business management student, Rosie Hopkins, 22, said: “It has pulled together knowledge we have gained over the last three years and applied it to a real life case study which ultimately adds an element of realism and enjoyment to the project.

“The entire process has been extremely beneficial. The feedback from the interview session held with Barclays Bank was very valuable highlighting areas for development which banks would consider when making the decision to issue a loan.

“Completing a project such as this will stand us in good stead for our future careers in the industry.”

Students developed plans for re-development discussed opportunities for diversification into areas such as offices, stabling, hosting polo events, kennels, storage, and renewable energy.

Course lecturer Dr Alison Bailey believes the scheme is as strong as ever since it began in 1969 and said: “We have understood for a very long time that students need both firm academic knowledge, as well as real-world practical experience.”

The estate’s chief executive Mark Robins added: “We are proud of what we have achieved at Farley but we are always keen to identify the next phase in our development.

“It is very rewarding to watch the next generation of farm and land managers develop their ideas based on what we have achieved here and gives us plenty of food for thought for our future plans.”

Karl McConville, Barclays relationship director of corporate banking in the south, said: “We welcome the opportunity to support students into employment, by using our expertise and business knowledge to provide opportunities to learn with real life business scenarios and understand the requirements of a financial provider.”