Earlier this year, we had the chance to visit Exton Park in Rutland for the 2020 IAgrM Farmplaner competition, where host Harry Campden followed the theme of previous hosts by opening with an engaging trip around the historic estate. In a change to the usual format, and due to the current restricted social contact measures in place, the competition switched to conference calls for the submission and judging phases.
This year, all 10 teams that entered the IAgrM Farmplanner competition, supported by Farmers Weekly, Duncan and Toplis, and Gasson Associates, were asked to pitch their ideas for the management of the 1286-hectare Exton Estate near Oakham, Rutland. Exton Estate currently comprises a suckler herd, 900ha of arable enterprises and ancient woodland. 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.
Tim Brigstocke, chairman of the judges, and the judging panel were presented with four strong diversification proposals, but only one could be crowned the winner of the 2020 Farmplanner of the Year award.
“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 – 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 winning team from Harper Adams comprised of Annie Metcalfe, Alex Williams, Frances Thomas, Hannah Proctor, Hugo Dwerryhouse, and Nicholas Hill.
Hannah Proctor added that it gave the team the opportunity to put into practice all they have learnt at university, formulating their own business plans based on a real-life scenario. Despite the challenges they were presented with, the team organised themselves into a group and worked professionally and diligently on the task from start to finish, with the support of Tony Asson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Land, Farm and Agribusiness Management.
Tony Asson concluded: “The remote working locations for the team members and different presentation format didn’t seem to phase them at all and we are very proud of our 2020 winners.”