Organised by Farmers Guardian, and sister titles Arable Farming and Dairy Farmer, the evening welcomed 250 farmers and key industry figures from across the country to the Sixways Stadium in Worcester to recognise innovation within the farming industry.
With nine awards up for grabs, the competition was fierce and following a record number of entries the 26 finalists were announced last month.
Guest speaker and founder of Go Ape, Tristram Mayhew took to the stage prior to the awards to inspire the room with his inspiring story of starting an outdoor adventure attraction from scratch and growing it into a multi-million pound, international business that it is today.
Following warm applause, the winners of the British Farming Awards were then announced and handed their trophies and marked the exciting finale of our search to reward the fantastic values, determination and adaptability of Britain’s farming community.
Dairy Innovator of the Year: Tim Gibson, J F Gibson & Son
Tim Gibson of Hunter Hill Farm in Bedale, North Yorkshire, has adopted robotic milkers and worked hard to make them acceptable in a climate when scepticism was rife.
He has doubled cow numbers to 200 and has now moved on to automatic feeding with all the advantages that brings in terms of reduced labour requirements and greater cow performance.
Tim has had to take responsibility for the farm’s development at an early age and stand by any decisions he makes.
Beef Innovator of the Year: Paul Westaway, Melview Farming
Paul Westaway, of Melview Farming, Gloucestershire, took on a 41-hectare (103-acre) tenancy in 2003, which has now grown to 68ha (170 acres) and 240-head of cattle.
But, with limited land for expansion, he has since built up several other beef-based businesses, including two global and UK-based AI companies, an embryo auctions website, an online steak and wine business and contract finishing enterprise for Blade Farming.
Paul now employes close to 30 peole and has been involved in on-farm trial work with McDonalds, British Seed Houses and Countrywide.
Sheep Innovator of the Year: Robert Hodgkins, Wairere UK Ltd
Along with his family, Robert Hodgkins, of Locks Farm, runs WairereUK, a commercial sheep farm of 3,000 New Zealand Romney ewes in the West Sussex.
He has developed one of the largest ‘Signet’ recorded flocks in the country, recording abour 1,500 ewes plus progeny. All sheep are also recorded using the New Zealand (NZ) performance recording system (SIL).
The business typically sells 110 shearling rams and 1,000 breeding females a year.
In 2011, Robert was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to study the application of genomic technology.
Arable Innovator of the Year: Michael Marriage, Dove Farm, Berkshire
Berkshire-based Dove Farm started out as an interest and has progressed into an original and innovative business.
Michael Marriage’s on farm mill has enabled them to produce niche products and introduce unusual, ancient crops into the modern market place.
They demonstrate a distinctive awareness of market opportunities and have developed from growing a few ancient varieties as a hobby to contracting growers to grow for them to meet a growing demand.
Renewables Innovator of the Year: Mike Porter, Porters Farms Ltd
Mike Porter of Hillhouse Farm, Walpole, runs a 325-hectare (803-acre) arable farm. He turned to biomass to heat his grain drying facility.
A firm believer in the technology, Mike installed another boiler to heat his home and offices and has also submitted plans for a wind turbine which will solely generate electricity to be sold to the National Grid.
Machinery Innovator of the Year: Tim Gibson, J F Gibson & Son
Tim Gibson of Hunters Hill Farm, Bedale, farms a 142-hectare (350-acre) dairy and arable farm and has been milking his 200 cows by robots for 12 years. With a forward-thinking attitude,
Tim has automated his dairy enterprise further by developing his fully automated diet feeding system.
Comprising a 23cu.m (812cu.ft) static diet feeder, once the feed is loaded and mixed, it is then dispensed via conveyors to troughs in the cow buildings. Tim says cow health has improved, milk yields have gone up and input costs have gone down.
New Entrant Award: Against the Odds: Jonathan Stanley, J & C Stanley
Jonathan Stanley from Shaftesbury, Dorset, has suffered his fair share of troubles – losing the family farm, applying for a farm tenancy of his own, building up a pedigree herd, losing 26 animals to TB and trying to stop a young business from going under.
But this is what he did and, although still under restriction, Jonathan runs an 81-cow Jersey herd which boasts the third highest milk from forage figure on the Kingshay Jersey costings service and the second highest margin figures of 28ppl.
Farm Retail Innovator of the Year: Essington Fruit Farm
The Simkin family set up Essington Fruit Farm in 1978 with 1ha (2.5 acres) of pick your own strawberries.
Today, the farm at Essington, near Wolverhampton, runs to 120ha (300 acres) and grows 30 different crops. Hereford beef and outdoor pigs are produced which are then sold in the butchery, shop and tearoom.
An ability to capitalise on issues such as the horsemeat scandal has seen the retailer increase business and attract free, positive publicity. Meat takings rose 40 per cent this spring and it has maintained 15-20 per cent growth on last year.
Family Farming business of the Year: The Evans Family, Evans Bros & Families
The Evans family from Cwmwythig, near Aberystwyth, comprises two grandparents, their three sons and families, including 11 grandchildren. Starting with one farm after getting married, Cynthia Evans says the family now farms six units in total.
The family’s main focus is dairying, running 750 cows, mainly undertaken with family labour, two full-time staff and some casual labour.
The Evans family also runs a contracting business and the good coastal location prompted them to convert buildings into holiday accommodation.
This business has grown rapidly and they now run 18 cottages, with plans to convert more, as well as offering bed and breakfast in two of their own homes. Hosting school visits features strongly in the family’s daily agenda.