The Bath & West Society is investing over half a million pounds to create a new Rural Enterprise Centre at its showground in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, aimed at helping the development of agri-tech and food chain business startups.

It is refurbishing a former office building through a £520,000 scheme that should be open for January 2018. The centre will have a conference and seminar area for up to 80 people; a modern commercial test kitchen; and a number of meeting rooms and commercial office spaces for agri-tech, food and drink or rurally focused businesses.

The Society’s vision is for the Centre to become a rural enterprise hub for Somerset and the South West of England, to encouraging knowledge sharing, education and business growth amongst the rural community and the development of agricultural businesses, land-based skills training and micro food and drink companies.

“Our aim is to cultivate rural advancement by creating a living-breathing community for rural businesses to collaborate and learn, share insight, develop products and help one another to advance enterprise across the region,” says Bath & West chief executive Rupert Cox.

“Education, knowledge transfer and business growth is at the heart of the Centre and the facility will provide the perfect venue for farmers undertaking knowledge transfer projects, higher education graduates completing research projects, further education students gaining farming knowledge and skills, the rural workforce learning vocational skills to increase their employability and micro food and drink businesses looking to expand and grow.”