A major new agricultural dealership – which will give Writtle University College students access to the latest machinery and technology as well as insight into a successful land-based business – is taking shape.

R W Crawfords Agricultural Machinery Ltd are investing £3m in the facility, which includes sales, a parts store and a workshop, with building on track for the depot to open by June 2018.

Crawfords purchased land along Fox Burrows Lane, Writtle, from the University College to build the facility, which will also include a student training room.

The partnership will see Crawfords offer Writtle’s Further Education (college-level) and Higher Education (university-level) Agriculture students a range of opportunities to enhance and enrich their studies.

Those studying Writtle’s new business courses – a Higher National Diploma and Higher National Certificate in Business and a Level 5 Apprenticeship in Operational/Departmental Manager – may also gain an interesting insight into an Agriculture-based business.

Work is progressing well on the new depot. The 22 sq ft steel frame of the main building – comprising offices, a showroom, store and workshops – is already up and the cladding and roof have been fitted. This will house more than £5m-worth of the latest machinery, such as combine harvesters, tractors, sprayers, cultivation equipment and drills. The concrete yard has been poured and the contractors are now working on landscaping and road widening.

The company is moving its main depot from South Woodham Ferrers to Writtle after 38 years. It is aiming to grow its customer base by 25% over the next five years, using the new facility to reach out to a wider market in Essex and East Hertfordshire.

Wes Crawford, company sales director and alumnus of Writtle, said: “This partnership with Writtle University College will enable us to give something back to the industry by helping the next generation of students to gain experience.

“We will be able to offer agricultural students at Writtle the chance to learn about the latest farm machinery and technology in our engineering workshops, sales depot and through student events and demonstrations.

“Like any successful business, Crawfords can also give students an insight into wider opportunities in the agricultural industry in this region – retail, trade, sales, administration, accountancy, events and PR. At the same time, we will be investing in our own future through this partnership, as Writtle students could be our future customers or our staff.”

Professor Tim Middleton, vice-chancellor of Writtle University College, said: “Writtle’s partnership with R W Crawfords will provide students in both Further and Higher Education additional opportunities to understand the role of state-of-the-art technology in precision farming and agri-tech innovation, which enables increased productivity for land-based businesses.

“We are excited by the opportunities for students to work with the experts at Crawfords in demonstrating and showcasing the next generation of food and farming technology.”