Drawing on sources of new information from around the world will be crucial as the UK heads in to uncharted territory for agriculture. Lauren Dean reports.
Ian Tremain – Bridgewater, Somerset
Agricultural commodities in a changing world
For animal feed expert Ian Tremain, the wealth of experience from time spent travelling the world paved the way to the role he is proud to stand in today.
As head of agricultural innovation at Bridgewater and Taunton College, Somerset, Mr Tremain said the experience of new people and places gave him the courage to think outside the box and open his mind to ideas not previously considered.
He spent 16 weeks travelling with Nuffield to Australia, New Zealand, China and North America, with eight weeks as part of the international global focus programme, looking at the use of technology and how it could be used to feed a growing population.
He said: “During my travels I discovered algae could be used as a commercial protein source. It will one day be part of the solution of feeding fish and poultry as demand currently relies heavily on imported protein.”
Mr Tremain said day trips to agricultural institutes, businesses and research centres gave him the skills to investigate other tools and seek out sensor technology and mobile phone apps.
“I also now sit on Tesco’s sustainable dairy group and its research and development committee, something I would have struggled to do without Nuffield,” he added.
Jim Shanks, Hawick, Scottish Borders
Energy for agriculture
From dairy to horticulture and renewable energy, farm manager Jim Shanks expanded his business to more than 10 times its initial turnover to accommodate innovation and a state-of-the-art glasshouse.
Upon his return to the UK after visits to Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the United States, Mr Shanks installed an anaerobic digestion plant with a 1.6-hectare (four-acre) glasshouse and a move to become Scotland’s only tomato grower.
“Every time I saw anaerobic digestion in one of the countries, I saw a glasshouse next to it,” he said. “This is what I have done.
“Dairy is now only 10 per cent of our turnover. Before Nuffield it was 100 per cent.”
Mr Shanks said the experience abroad left him more appreciative of the farming community back home and it was a long-term and rewarding scholarship, despite some difficulties.
He added: “When people say to me now, what should I do or what do you think about this, I say to them, ‘go and travel, find other ideas’.
“Maybe you cannot replicate the ideas like-for-like but you can give it a good try.”
Ben Taylor-Davies – Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
Maximising the use of stale seedbeds in a profitable combinable crop rotation in the presence of resistant black-grass
It was his eureka ‘back to basics’ moment which penned the opportunity for the new-found System BEN.
Agronomist Ben Taylor-Davies had his conclusions reversed when considering the answer to black-grass, something he initially thought to be genetic modification, after visits to Australia, Brazil and Argentina confirmed growers had to keep mechanically removing black-grass to get on top of it.
He said: “We have definitely got to be protecting glyphosate and the only way you are going to do this is to remove the survivors by mechanically tilling them.
“Yes we need to look after soils but there is a massive caveat; as we become more reliant on glyphosate, what do we do if we get total resistance to it in black-grass? Where does this leave us?”
System BEN, focusing on block rotations, enhancing black-grass selection and neutralising it, is a rotational system generated off the back of Nuffield to work with the weed through nature instead of ‘constantly trying to chase it and never achieving’.
“I have basically proven whatever you do to black-grass, you just manipulate its own selection and therefore have to work to select it for what you want to control,” Mr Taylor-Davies added.
Kate Moore – Driffield, East Yorkshire
An examination of high welfare systems in the pork industry
One of the main things which stood out to farm manager Kate Moore was when the travelling stopped, the journey did not.
Ms Moore championed Nuffield’s persistence to keep opening doors and offer knowledge in all areas of business.
She said: “I travelled to Denmark, Sweden, China, Brazil and America, all vastly different but with similar views.
“It struck me the economies in these countries were anything but similar, but the way they looked at farming all somehow aligned.”
Ms Moore’s attribution to the pig and pork industry and the UK’s leading animal welfare position was open to insight to other methods and interpretations, which she said prompted questions about her own business.
“We really are mad in the UK with the pig industry. Everyone I met laughed at my pictures of pigs outside. They were all driving for efficiency and pigs outside is anything but efficient.
“Every meeting, every country, you will pick up something which will make you better in business and as a person.”
When: November 22 – 24 2017
Where: Marriott Central Hotel, Bristol
The two-day conference will see 18 Nuffield Scholars present their findings from nearly two years of global travel and research, with an aim to further advance the British farming industry.
The incoming group of 2018 Scholars will also be officially awarded their scholarships and the annual dinner will take place on the evening of November 23.
For more information, call the Nuffield office on 01460 234 012, or visit www.nuffieldscholar.net/annual-conference/exhibition