Posted 14 December 2020
Harper Adams has a long history of welcoming leading figures from industry, the professions and policy making to the University to speak with students and share their unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Covid-19 has disrupted many of the usual planned activities and programmes this year, however, mid-November saw the launch of an online ‘New Horizons’ lecture series which aims to inspire and challenge students and staff by providing the opportunity to hear from, and question, key contributors to the policy and practice debate.
Nicholas Saphir, Chair of AHDB, launched the lecture series by outlining the role and strategy of the AHDB. Nicolas explored the cycle of growth and decline of agriculture over the years, the UK’s position on productivity and the level of food exports compared with imports and the implications for food prices and affordability. Nicholas was positive about the role of the individual farmer in farm success and profitability and highlighted the critical importance of supply chain integration and the use of data. Nicholas referred to the audience as being the future of British agriculture and stressed the importance of looking forward, rather than backwards, in making the most of emerging opportunities. An interesting discussion took place on the role of ‘buy British’ campaigns following a question by Agri-Business student Joe Bramall, and Nicholas was keen to answer all the questions from the audience, however challenging!
The following week, we heard from John Shropshire OBE, Chairman of the G’s Fresh group of companies. John is no stranger to the University, having been awarded an honorary degree by Harper Adams in 2009 in recognition of his work in adopting science to develop innovative technologies in the creation of a sustainable fresh produce business model. John explained the work of G’s and the business challenges facing the sector as a result of, amongst other items, Covid-19, Brexit and climate change. Vertical integration, sustainability, resilience and skills development were other key issues which John covered in his inspirational style, together with engineering solutions for tackling labour shortages and managing crops through data intelligence. There was plenty of opportunity for questions and students and staff made the most of John’s valuable industry experience.
The common theme from both presentations was the importance of seeking out opportunities brought about during periods of change – a very relevant message in current times.
In recognition of our wider portfolio of subjects, December provided the opportunity to hear from James Russell BVetMed MRCVS, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) who discussed the role of the BVA and the future of the veterinary profession from his home office in a motorhome on his driveway! James shared his love of working with livestock and the inspiration he gained from reading about and watching the vet George Rafferty in his television documentary series. James talked about the use of antibiotics in food producing animals and the importance of eliminating disease from animal stocks. Animal welfare, as we exit the Brexit transition period, and the lack of veterinary representation within policy making were considered. The evolution of the profession to include big data was discussed together with the important role of the vet in managing farm health and animal welfare. The subject of ‘One Health’ raised by Veterinary student Robert Buckley, prompted some very interesting points about the links between animal health, human health and environmental health.
The New Horizons lecture series recommences in January where we look forward to contributions from: