Virtual reality is new tool to immerse children in farming - Countryside Live in Harrogate

Virtual reality technology is providing new, immersive ways to teach young people about farming.

Sunday, 20th October 2019, 7:39 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th October 2019, 8:40 pm
Astarla Jackson, aged four from Harrogate, pictured with the virtual reality head sets at the NFU's Discovery Barn at Countryside Live, Harrogate. Picture by Simon Hulme.

At this weekend's Countryside Live event at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate, the National Farmers’ Union’s Discovery Barn transported visitors to the farmyard using a VR headset, giving them a close up view of a dairy herd.

The barn also featured a combine harvester driving experience, the chance to milk a dummy cow and an explanation of the farming year.

“We are promoting the high tech nature of modern farming because the youngsters are particularly interested in the technology,” said Lewis Antrobus, of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) learning enterprise Learn By Design, who greeted visitors to the NFU’s barn.

“It’s about showing them where their food is coming from and it is particularly powerful when we take it into cities because children there don’t tend to have access to rural experiences.”

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The average age of a British farmer is 58 and there are concerns about securing the industry’s future workforce.

Rachael Gillbanks, communications adviser at the NFU, said: “We are doing more than ever to engage with younger farmers coming through.

“We potentially have this massive change to come for the industry (because of Brexit) and younger people are going to be the ones responding to this and coming up with ideas to take it forward.

“There is so much to shout about - about what’s positive - the variety of jobs and careers in farming and I think young people have that drive and enthusiasm to take that on.”

To engage with children about food and farming, the NFU launched its STEMterprise initiative earlier this year. The project sees teachers being trained to take primary school pupils through the process of setting up their own farm shop business.