Virgin Money is investing in agriculture in more ways than one as it launches a new partnership with Plumpton College based in Plumpton, East Sussex. The relationship will enable the College and Virgin Money to work together to enhance and develop the future of Agricultural and Horticultural education across south-east England.

Virgin Money will support the full banking requirements of Plumpton College, facilitating all working capital, including transactional facilities, while also investing in the development of facilities in the College’s new Agri Food Hub. Funded jointly by Virgin Money and South East Local Enterprise Partnership, at £9m this represents the largest investment into a college farm and agri-food educational resources in the South of England.

In addition to this, Virgin Money will assist in the financing of the refurbishment of One Garden Brighton, a Victorian walled garden in Stanmer Park on the outskirts of Brighton. Officially opened to the public in April 2021, One Garden Brighton is the home of the College’s centre of excellence for Horticulture training and education, delivering qualifications including the apprenticeships it provides for organisations such as The National Trust and Royal Horticultural Society.

Fully encouraging of lifelong learning opportunities in both Agriculture and Horticulture, Virgin Money will follow the journey of selected students over a 12-month period, sharing their stories and successes to provide inspiration to the next generation. The scheme will culminate with an award for the most outstanding participant.

Heading up the project, Justin Ellis, Relationship Manager in Agriculture at Virgin Money, commented: “We are very much looking forward to our new partnership with Plumpton College, which is an excellent educational facility, producing consistently high results. The investment in College facilities will open up valuable prospects for current and future students, not only improving learning but also engagement within the area.

“In addition, we hope that following the students’ stories will highlight the benefits of lifelong learning and encourage others to take it up, helping to safeguard the future of the Agricultural and Horticultural industries.”

As part of the re-banking and development, Plumpton College is building a new state-of-the-art piggery, investing in a pair of robots in its dairy unit and installing a new butchery suite, allowing them to offer the very best education facility to its Agri-focussed students.

Furthermore, Plumpton is home to a multi-enterprise commercial farm, vineyard and winery, and is one of the only institutes in the world to offer viticulture degrees, all taught in the English language.

Commenting Principal of Plumpton College Jeremy Kerswell said: “Both the agri-food and horticulture sectors are facing significant challenges such as the impact of climate change and Brexit, and national skills shortages. The horticulture sector has more demand than ever before for new skilled entrants with 70% of businesses in the sector struggling to find employees.

“This new partnership is vital to invest in our campuses, curriculum and students to secure the future of these important sectors in the South East. Together we aim to attract and inspire the next generation of learners into diverse careers and to become a regional business hub to support rural communities we serve with training, knowledge transfer and a pipeline of career-ready employees.”

Lending to the agriculture and wider food sector to facilitate innovation is a high priority area for Virgin Money, and financial products will increasingly focus on environmental transition projects as the industry seeks to meet its Net Zero target by 2040.

Pictured: Justin Ellis Relationship Manager Agriculture Virgin Money and Jeremy Kerswell Principal Plumpton College