Thursday, 17 March 2016

Environmental Sustainability Institute

Last week I visited the Environmental Sustainability Institute at the Tremough University campus in Penryn.  They have been in operation for a few years now, and have just had an extension which reflects the high level of interest in the work being done there.

The university has been a catalyst for the creation of new businesses and new industries. Falmouth University has spun off many new businesses in the captive industries and digital media, while from the Exeter University part we are seeing world beating environmental science and, of course, the world’s foremost centre of excellence for geology at Camborne School of Mines.

The Environmental Sustainability Institute carries out leading environmental research for government departments like Defra and for private businesses.  They have some state of the art science labs, and during my visit I saw some of the work being done to research bee populations, and their movements to try to provide the evidence base that will help our pollinator strategy, and help reverse the decline in bee populations.

I also saw some of the excellent work being done on drone technology which offers many new opportunities to help us understand the environment with drones being able to offer sophisticated survey data, and photography, providing us with a better understanding of the topography of the land, and a better assessment of issues like flood risk, plant health, soil quality and landscape features. This sort of sophisticated data is transforming our ability to manage both our environment, and to promote more efficient farming.

I also saw some of the work being done by a team investigating badger populations and movements which is of particular interest in my role as Defra minister when it comes to fighting TB.  The badger cull policy is contentious, but we know it is an essential component of any coherent policy to eradicate this terrible disease, alongside other measures such as improving cattle movements.  The more we can understand about badger populations, the better.