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    Harper Adams 2023- a year in review part one

    Posted 20 December 2023

    2023 was another busy year at Harper Adams University, and as we look towards Christmas, we're also taking a moment to look back too: join us as we take a look at the highlights from January to June...


    The year started with the announcement of the winners of the School of Sustainable Food and Farming’s Journey to Net Zero competition.

    Each of the four winners were chosen after persuading the judging panel that they had the best plan for implementing a commercially viable, scalable and sustainable farming system or process which would have a positive and measurable impact on how they farm.

    Each shared their progress during the year, as part of the School’s commitment to promoting knowledge exchange across the agri-food industry and beyond

    The School also announced Meadow, one of the UK’s leading value-added ingredients businesses, would become its latest associate partner.

    Director of The School, Simon Thelwell, said: “Sustainable supply chains and sourcing are becoming increasingly important to customers, suppliers and producers. 

    “We’re proud to be leading the agri-sector in helping them to delivering on their sustainable ambitions and to be partnering with some of the biggest names in industry so that collectively we can achieve ambitious sustainability goals.”

    Meanwhile the achievements of a range of Harper Adams students were  marked with the annual charities and education awards luncheon at the Worshipful Company of Butchers’ Butchers Hall in London.

    The students were invited to present to the Company’s court about their studies and research as part of the proceedings.


    In February, the title of Dairy Student of the Year was taken by a Harper Adams student for the third successive year – and for the eighth time in the past nine years.

    Rebecca Smith, a BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Farm Business Management student, was announced as the award winner at Dairy-Tech 2023.

    Postgraduate students and researchers were among guests at the opening of a dedicated Graduate School.

    The School has taken over the former Postgraduate and Professional Development Centre.

    The Centre has become a hub for all postgraduates – taught and research – to unite themselves and their ideas and to gain access to training and support.

    The University welcomed Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries, the Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP, to its campus to meet staff and students and discuss the University’s work.

    The Minister’s visit was followed by a Question Time event hosted by Farmers Weekly, hosted in the University’s Food Academy, at which he was a panellist alongside Deputy Vice-CHancellor Professor Michael Lee, author and sustainable food expert Vicki Herd, and arable farming YouTuber Olly Harrison.

    Policy makers, industry leaders and more met senior Harper Adams staff at a Global Policy Forum dinner in Northern Ireland

    The evening, held at the Europa Hotel in Belfast, was addressed by Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan and was the second in a series of ongoing events for the University’s Global Policy Forum.  


    In March, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised Harper Adams University as ‘a fantastic example of the type of innovation and skills provision that we need in our agri-tech sector’ during Prime Minister’s Questions.

    The Prime Minister wasn’t the only person to be singing our praises that spring – as the University was named as the best in the world for agriculture and forestry employer reputation for a second successive year. 

    The University was announced as the leading global institution in this category for 2022 and held its position in the  QS Quacquarelli Symonds rankings for 2023.

    The University became the first in the UK to offer a course to equip its participants with practical skills for agricultural drone spraying operations.

    The course is a collaboration between the University and AutoSpray Systems, which holds the UK’s first Operational Authorisation for commercial agricultural spraying with drones over 25KG through the Civil Aviation Authority, and later in the year drew attention from both the BBC and Chinese television channel CGTN.

    Senior Lecturer in Entomology Dr Heather Campbell saw the publication of her latest book, co-authored alongside Dr Benjamin Blanchard .

    Ants: A Visual Guide was published by Princeton University Press, with the work drawing attention from Time Magazine among others.


    Taking part in the food sessions at the residential are, from L to R: a Bridgewater High School Student, HRH, a Laurus Ryecroft Student, and Elizabeth Lake, LEAF Regional Education Consultant.

    Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh joined students for the first day of a two-day residential at Harper Adams University to mark the culmination of a research project by LEAF Education, in partnership with McDonald’s UK and Harper Adams’ School of Sustainable Food and Farming. 

    The Duchess took part in high-tech agri-food sessions, designed to showcase the breadth and depth of our modern agri-food industry and listened to the students’ career aspirations and understanding of sustainable food choices.

    Glowing student reviews saw the University named as the best in the country for career prospects for the seventh time in a row.

    The University took the top spot at the WhatUni Student Choice Awards, or WUSCAs, in the Career Prospects category.

    The win was the seventh time the University has taken the award since 2016, securing it every year except 2021, when awards were not made nationally due to the covid-19 pandemic.

    Work began on a Peace Garden in the Harper Adams University grounds.

    Project Manager and Grounds Manager at Harper Adams, Mark Hall, said: “The peace garden is important because it’s a place for the staff and the students to have somewhere to actually come and sit, relax and reflect in a quiet, natural environment – we all need that little bit of an escapism now and again from the hustle and bustle of the busy working day, so this area – to come and sit in – will be really ideal.”

    The Harper Adams peace garden will also serve as a place of remembrance for the Harper Community. 


    A record-breaking Harper Adams Scholarship Presentation saw the University’s students awarded more than £560,000

    The annual ceremony is organised by The Harper Adams University Development Trust – and marks the culmination of a year’s work with students and sponsors. 

    Harper Adams students Tim Cotterill and Anna Frick, who were both in the final year of their BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Farm Business Management degrees, secured two of the top three placings in the national Farmers Club Pinnacle Awards 2023.

    The awards – which marked their quarter century this year – assess students’ excellence in business management, with a shortlist drawn up from universities across the UK.

    The University welcomed students from Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia to start a 10-week scholarship with the Marshal Papworth Foundation.

    The scholarship teaches its students all about sustainable agriculture – helping the students, many of whom are already helming projects at home, to fine-tune their skills and knowledge – and this year’s cohort was the largest so far.

    Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan greeted the students, saying: "When you give access to education, it creates communities and networks and friendships, and what we really want is to make sure that you thoroughly enjoy your time here, and that you find the course exceptionally useful, but thirdly that when you return to your own communities, that you are able to take skills, understanding and expertise with you and hopefully, through that, transform the lives of other people.”


    Vines took root on campus to establish the first vineyard on the Harper Adams University estate – with the grapes ready to produce wine within two years.

    The vines were planted under the watchful eye of Professor Frank Vriesekoop, Adjunct Professor in Food Biotechnology, and with the guidance of Harper alumnus Martin Vickers, the founder of the Halfpenny Green Wine Estate in Bobbington, near Bridgnorth.

    As the vines develop, it is hoped that they can be used for a variety of uses by the University, not only in the direct production of wine, but also in the development of further teaching around viticulture - or the cultivation and harvesting of grapes.

    The latest  Graduate Outcomes figures, released in June, showed that more than 99 per cent of UK-based undergraduates from Harper Adams University were in work or further study. 

    The University is also top in the country for the proportion of its graduates who are now in full-time employment in the figures

    The Graduate Outcomes survey, in which 826,610 graduates are eligible to participate, explores what former students from UK universities and other Higher Education providers are doing one year and three months after completing their studies. 

    BBC One's Countryfile featured University research on artifical intelligence and how it could be used to keep dairy cows healthier.

    The University’s Professor of Applied Animal Behaviour, Mark Rutter, spoke to presenter Adam Henson about the research and its potential applications.

    He told Adam: “Rather than having individual sensors on cows, so we can detect when they are in oestrus or monitor their health, a different approach is that we can have all these cameras, giving us a great top-down view of the cows.

    “The cameras are using artificial intelligence and machine vision, so we can identify individual cows, we can also look at their behaviours and work out exactly what they are doing.”

    A Harper Adams expert was invited to address a Parliamentary Select Committee examining food security issues in the UK

    The Environmental Audit Commons Select Committee invited Professor James Lowenberg-DeBoer, the Elizabeth Creak Chair of Agri-Tech Economics at Harper Adams University, to give evidence to their inquiry on Environmental Change and Food Security.

    Professor Lowenberg De-Boer was invited to give evidence to the inquiry following his role in the development of a report which set out plans to boost productivity and innovation in UK agriculture.

    Read the part two roundup - from July to December - here.

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