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Key figures awarded Honorary Degrees and Fellowship

Posted 27 September 2013

Farming is progressing and farming is innovating and it is universities such as this that are very much at the leading edge of teaching our young people not only how to innovate and to learn, but also how to think outside the box.

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Stephen Woodgate

Stephen Woodgate

Key figures from the agri-food world have been awarded Honorary Degrees and a Fellowship at the annual graduation ceremony at Harper Adams University.

Stephen Woodgate, Chief Executive of FABRA (the Foodchain and Biomass Renewables Association), was awarded a Fellowship of the University at the ceremony on September 20, while the Duke of Westminster, Professor Sir John Beddington and Caroline Drummond all received Honorary Doctorates.

The four VIPs are the first recipients to be presented with Honorary Doctorates and Fellowships since the institution near Newport gained full university title.

Mr Woodgate is a leading authority on the effective processing of meat industry by-products, with a specific interest in ensuring food chain bio-security and minimising carbon emissions in the meat production process.

He said being presented with the Fellowship was a “great honour”, adding: “It is recognition of the effort we have put in. Both myself and Harper Adams have been acknowledging what impact we have, or what we could have, in the animal feed industry and in the whole livestock sector.

“The way I look at the industry is that I think of it as an integrated industry that involves livestock, crop production, and food production, and we are very much a part of the food chain. This is an acknowledgement that animal by-products and my specific area fit into that chain, so I am over the moon to be given this honour. I think it is a great honour for me personally and for the industry I represent.

“My take-home message for the students is be interested in what my industry does. My industry is one that is more or less forgotten or invisible to many. Many don’t understand that the animals that they send away for slaughter for meat are producing significant amounts of animal by-products. Think of these by-products as a resource, be interested in food production, be interested in biofuels, and be interested in fertilisers and animal feed, and think about what we do in our industry as part of the food chain.”

The Duke of Westminster, who was the guest speaker during the graduation ceremony, is the Chairman of the Trustees of the Grosvenor Estate, which encompasses all of the family’s business interests including Grosvenor Farms, supports charities and other institutions personally, and chairs the Nuffield Trust for the Armed Forces and his own charitable trust – the Westminster Foundation.

His Grace said: “I’m here really as a result of my interests in farming. Farming has been very much part of my life.

“Farming is progressing and farming is innovating and it is universities such as this that are very much at the leading edge of teaching our young people not only how to innovate and to learn, but also how to think outside the box.

“To receive an Honorary Degree from an institution that has got a worldwide reputation is of course an enormous honour. I’m not sure what I have done to deserve it, I think it is a reflection of what I have done in the past in the agricultural industry and certainly what I hope to do in the future, and I will treasure it very much.

“There is one thing anybody likes, you or me, and that is to be recognised by your own peer group for having done an outstanding job and that gives me a warm and cuddly feeling and I like that.”

Offering his advice to the graduating students, he added: “You don’t know everything, you will make your mistakes, but you need to have the courage of your own convictions, and you have got to have the strength of character and integrity of mind to carry through what you believe is right.

“None of those attributes you can learn, they are either in you or they are not, but strive to be successful and there is no substitute for hard work.”

Professor Sir John Beddington received his Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his role as Government Chief Scientific Advisor from 2008 until April this year.

In the role he provided scientific advice to the Government during the 2009 swine flu outbreak and the 2010 volcanic ash incident, and raised the concept of the ‘Perfect Storm’ of food, energy and water security in the context of climate change.

On receiving his degree, he said: “I’m absolutely delighted because one of the key things and key messages I tried to bring when I was Chief Scientific Advisor was how in fact agriculture in all its facets had been neglected and the importance as the world changed of actually thinking about agriculture in a new and exciting way, so I am delighted and it is a genuine honour.

“In 12 years’ time there will be another billion people on the planet. We need to be thinking about how we can produce enough food with limited supplies of water and with the complication of climate change, so agricultural technology is going to be a real key for the future because it will genuinely bring benefit to mankind, and I think Harper Adams is just the place to take these things forward.”

The final recipient of an Honorary Doctorate was Chief Executive of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Caroline Drummond, who was presented with the award in recognition of her work to combine modern farming with conservation and in engaging the public in farming matters.

She said: “It’s a fabulous honour to be receiving an honorary doctorate from Harper Adams University. The university is doing so well in really encouraging a new generation of agricultural students to come through, and as we see all the changes ahead of us over the next 10 to 20 years, that education, that innovation and that enthusiasm is something that is really, really needed, so it is really a great honour from my perspective and obviously on behalf of all the people who are supportive of LEAF and what we do at LEAF.

“Good luck to everybody going out into the big, wide world after your graduation. It is a fabulous opportunity for anyone who has knowledge now in food, farming and the environment because this is where the future’s at.”

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