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Scholars driving positive changes for agriculture

New research to drive UK agriculture as leaders of innovation and efficiency will lie at the heart of this year’s Nuffield Farming Scholarships annual conference.


Farmers and industry professionals will report on new research and recommendations to boost best practise in UK agriculture.


A total of 25 scholars will be presenting at this year’s Nuffield Farming Scholarships annual conference, being held at Gosforth Park Hotel, Newcastle.


The conference brings together individuals who work in the farming, food, horticulture and rural industries to present their findings having travelled internationally to study a chosen topic.


Scholars travel for a minimum of eight weeks, visiting farms and key international organisations round the world who facilitate their learning.


"I see my Nuffield Scholarship as a catalyst for change. It was not instant, but the gradual changes have made a real impact"

This year’s topics include family business development, marketing premium beef, soil preservation, maximising effciency in sugar beet farming, tackling food waste and nurturing new talent in the industry.


Mike Vacher, Nuffield director, believes the key findings facilitate cross-sector learning and best practise across all sectors.


He says: “All scholars travel internationally for at least eight weeks. If you multiply this by the 25 scholars presenting, then there is at least 200 weeks of global learning to be shared over two days.”


The conference takes place from November 23-25 and more information can be found at

Q&A with Nuffield Scholar, Paul Fishpool

Q&A with Nuffield Scholar, Paul Fishpool

Paul Fishpool was awarded his scholarship last year and recently completed 18 months of study and global travel on maximising efficiency of the UK sugar beet supply chain. He will be presenting his findings at this year’s conference.


How did you choose your study topic?
I work in the sugar industry and was interested to see how the rest of the world operated. I wanted the chance to learn from practices round the globe, and bring back information, techniques and experience to improve the efficiencies of the UK sugar beet supply chain.

How did you hear about Nuffield Farming Scholarships?
2010 Scholar James Peck introduced me to Nuffield during a conversation about his study. It sounded like an excellent experience and I thought a study on sugar could benefit the industry.

Which countries did you travel to?
I travelled to the USA twice. The first time I went to Idaho to visit Amalgamated Sugar and on my second visit I went to Michigan, Minnesota and North Dakota to see American Crystal, Michigan Sugar and Minn Dak. I also visited Australia, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Slovakia and Spain.

Did you face any challenges during the 18-month scholarship?
Finding time to write my report was challenging but my biggest hurdle was in Zambia, when I had to explain to customs the money I needed to pay for my visa was going round the carousel in my bag on the other side of the airport. They did allow me into the country in the end.

How has your Nuffield study benefited you?
I have learned lots from my experience, both personally and professionally. I have been sharing my findings with industry stakeholders from the start. For example, in Australia they grow sugar cane, opposed to sugar beet, and to keep it fresh the cane has to be transported to the factory quickly. To facilitate this they have some fantastic technology and systems to help manage it, some of which I would like to see implemented in the UK.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for a Nuffield Scholarship
Just go for it. It is a fantastic experience which gives you the opportunity to promote change in the industry. I was concerned I might not be able to fit the study and travel in with my busy lifestyle. However, there are ways to ensure your farm or business can run without you. At the end of the day it is of benefit to you and your industry.

I am really looking forward to presenting my full report. The sugar industry is not always well known to people and I think it is the first time anyone has done a Nuffield study on sugar. I am also enjoying the opportunity to put into practice what I have seen and experienced during my study to benefit the sugar industry

'My scholarship was truly life changing'- Joe Delves, East Sussex

'My scholarship was truly life changing'- Joe Delves, East Sussex

Joe Delves completed his Nuffield Scholarship in 2013 and his business has dramatically changed for the better.


After six years of working in the construction industry, Joe decided to fold his business and return to the family dairy farm in East Sussex.


“After running the farm for a couple of years, I realised I had made a few mistakes and did not really move the farm forwards,” says third-generation farmer Joe.


It was not until I was 30 and married with children I decided I wanted to improve my lifestyle and become a more successful farmer.”


A family friend who had also been a Nuffield Scholar told Joe a global perspective of the dairy industry would help him improve the farm, and suggested he apply for a scholarship.


“I did not know much about Nuffield, but I went home and applied the same day and I have never looked back.


“Having been awarded my scholarship in November 2012, I kicked off my travels with an extensive tour of Europe and then across America. I wanted to stick to English-speaking countries so I could have in-depth, meaningful conversations with farmers.”


It was the US leg of the journey which really made an impression on Joe.


“The first farmer I met had a fantastic work-life balance.


“He showed me you can do well in life and still be honourable about it. He was a perfect example of a farmer who did not compromise family values,” says Joe.


“My study forced me to completely review the practices on my farm at home. It allowed me to take a step back and look at where I was focusing my time and effort.”


"My travels taught me the importance of living the life you want to, not the life which is expected of you"

The time away allowed Joe to realise the value of his employees, and how he could improve the efficiency of the farm if he moved away from the daily operations to oversee the farm’s management.


“My time travelling taught me the importance of living the life you want to, not the life which is expected of you.


“It really hit me when I was travelling on my own. I thought to myself, ‘Am I just carrying on what my father did, or do I want to have a better, more successful life and business’,” says Joe.


The biggest change came about when Joe and his family decided to move away from the farm.


“Many people will think it is mad, but it has made such a difference to our lives. We are only a mile away from one unit, but we are 50 miles from the other.”


Moving off-farm really was the cherry on top for Joe.


“None of the American farmers lived on their farms. My wife and I thought it was odd at first, but now we are living away, I realise why they do. It has really improved our quality of life.


“I only moved away this year but the seed was sown on my Nuffield Scholarship, when I first met that farmer in the US three years ago. I see my Nuffield as a catalyst for change. It was not instant, but the gradual changes have made a real impact on our success and the happiness of my family.”

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