Students from Harper Adams fought off strong submissions from Newcastle University, Bishops Burton and last year’s winners Riseholme College to be crowned winner of the 2020 Farmplanner Award, sponsored by Farmers Weekly, Farmplan, Gasson Associates, Duncan and Toplis and ADM.
With the added challenge of making their submissions virtually given the current lockdown, all four finalists were commended for the quality and originality of their proposals. Chairman of the judges Tim Brigstocke said the final decision was a very difficult one to make.
This year the 10 teams were tasked with presenting proposals for the management of the 1286 hectare Exton Estate near Oakham, Rutland. The estate comprises a suckler herd, 900ha of arable enterprises and ancient woodland, and the teams were challenged to advise the estate owner, Harry Campden, on a range of questions including future staffing arrangements, how to develop redundant buildings, opportunities for diversification in woodland as well as the future cropping and livestock systems.
“I thought all four finalists had some excellent and innovative ideas and all thought outside the box,” Harry Campden commented. “All their suggestions for the farming system were well thought out with good justification and they all embraced the need for diversification with Riseholme with their blackcurrants, Newcastle with their equestrian centre, Bishops Burton suggesting a SEN farm and finally Harper Adams proposing a funeral barrow and café.”
The Harpers Adams team comprised (Annie Metcalfe, Alex Williams, Frances Thomas, Hannah Proctor, Hugo Dwerryhouse, Nicholas Hill) under the guiding eye of Tony Asson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Land, Farm and Agribusiness Management who says: “The farm business management team at Harper Adams University have been keen supporters of the FarmPlanner competition as we are great believers in ‘real life’ exercises. The competition gives us another example to let the students face the challenges set by farmers. The hosts are often multifaceted and interesting businesses with pertinent and relevant questions to answer and in other parts of the country to our usual assignments.
“It also gives the students the chance to pit themselves against other institutions and test the quality of their learning and ideas.
“The team organised themselves into a group - we don't set up the groups, and from start to finish they have worked professionally and diligently on the task and were well prepared for the presentation. The remote working locations for the team members and changed presentation format didn't seem to phase them at all. We are very proud of our 2020 winners.
The team members all found the competition really valuable, in spite of the challenges they faced.
“It was all coming together smoothly until coronavirus separated us,” Alex Williams comments “Turns out doing a team project virtually is a challenge in itself. However, the skills we have learned through working together virtually will no doubt come in useful in the future as it seems most things will be done online soon.”
Hannah Proctor says: “The Farm planner competition allowed us to experience formulating our own business plan based on a real-life scenario, giving us the opportunity to put into practice all we at learnt at University. It was great that the competition went ahead despite the unprecedented circumstances and that couldn’t have happened without the dedication of all those involved in organising it.”