The plans include harnessing of ‘big data’ and digital technology for use in research and education.
Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has announced plans for a £2million investment to expand its existing research and commercial operations.
The money will go towards a ‘ground-breaking’ Centre of Excellence for Digital Agriculture and Animal Health to help improve scientific and education services and secure improvements in animal and human health.
As part of the approach, it will for the first time combine multidisciplinary strengths in veterinary disease surveillance, research, education and rural business consultancy.
It will be housed in a new building on the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) Inverness Campus.
SRUC’s academic director, Professor Jamie Newbold, said: “SRUC has an ambitious regional, national and global strategy to increase its positive impact on rural economies.
“Key to our new strategy is collaboration with existing and new partners, achieved through the sharing of expertise, resources and facilities.
“Examples include the harnessing of ‘big data’ and digital technology for use in research and education and improvements in the responsiveness and impact of the advisory services we offer to local farmers.
“We are very excited about this new partnership with HIE.”
The centre will build on the existing collaboration on campus between SRUC’s veterinary epidemiology research centre and its farm and rural business consultants.
It will include high quality teaching facilities for vet students and open up about six new posts to harness the available data and deliver content for online learning postgraduate digital courses.
Ruaraidh MacNeil, HIE project director of Inverness campus, added: “SRUC is already involved in a variety of collaborative projects at Inverness campus working with other academic institutions, NHS and commercial companies.
“These plans bring more opportunities to expand this joint working and boost the campus animal health offering.”
The new centre is expected to open in early 2019, with the SAC Consulting veterinary surveillance functions uprooting for relocation in spring 2019.