Three adventurous Scottish farmers have been awarded Nuffield Scholarships this year – AHDB’s Claire Hodge, Penny Montgomerie, of the SAYFC and dairy farmer, Richard Walker.

Established by Lord Nuffield (William Morris) in 1947, the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust support 19 scholars from the UK and 80 internationally each year, enabling them to travel the world for eight weeks, studying a specific topic, and then report back their findings.

This week, Claire, Penny and Richard tell us what they plan to do with their time abroad and what they hope to find out. Later, we’ll find out how they got on.

Claire Hodge

Senior knowledge exchange manager, AHDB

Topic: Potato supply chains

Sponsor: The MacRobert Trust

“This is a great opportunity to travel the world, asking the kind of questions which we don’t usually have time to answer. I have been fortunate enough to find a career in the potato industry that is wonderfully satisfying.

“I now work for AHDB, the national levy organisation supporting farmers. One of my focus areas is now on seed production, which is a critical stage in the production system and one that has many quirky anomalies.

“Scotland holds high health status for all potato seed crops grown. This is a great accolade to the collaboration, trust and expertise the Scottish potato sector has, allowing us to boast of the best seed potatoes in the world.

“My Nuffield Scholarship is looking at connectivity in the seed supply chain. I’m keen to get a better understanding of how emerging and established markets are managing pest and disease threats and so see where the opportunities are for Scottish seed.

“I aim to focus on the sharing of technical information, which has potential to increase productivity and reduce pest and disease risk. I will study how seed producers and purchasers communicate, looking at best practice.

“I start my Nuffield Global Focus Programme with a six-week journey through Asia, Europe and USA looking at the diversity of agriculture across the world. This is then followed by the potato tour in October, where I will visit potato growers and industry in Kenya, India, Chile and Brazil, to find out more about how their seed supply chains communicate.”

Penny Montgomerie

CEO of the SAYFC

Topic: Young farmers’ role in shaping the future of British agriculture

Sponsor: The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland

“I grew up on our family farm in Fife, before studying at SAC in Edinburgh, then Aberdeen. The majority of my working life has been with the SAYFC and in 2009 I took over as chief executive.

“In early 2018, I was fortunate to take part in the Worshipful Company of Farmers’ ‘Challenge of rural leadership programme’, which gave me the focus and motivation to apply to become a Nuffield Scholar.

“As we face a period of change and uncertainty within agriculture, we need to examine how as an organisation with farming background we can we help prepare the future agricultural workforce.

“Is there still a place for SAYFC – or any other young farmer organisations – to be involved, or should we focus on rural issues and non-farming membership?

“I want to find out what opportunities there are open to young people in agriculture via organisations such as SAYFC in various different countries and get an in depth understanding of the levels of support and the success stories.

“I’ll be looking at examples of collaboration between different groups and their motivations and I will also be looking at how other industry bodies perceive young farmer groups. We need a better understanding of how SAYFC grow the next generation of leaders in rural Scotland.

“In late June, I will be travelling to New Zealand to spend time with New Zealand Young Farmers, following this I have made no firm plans but hope to travel to the US to learn more about 4H groups and FFA group.”

Richard Walker

Dairy farmer

Topic: Identifying and integrating added-value British dairy products with international markets.

Sponsor: Young Nuffield (Bob Matson) Award/The Food Chain Scholarship

“Having grown up on our family dairy farm in South-west Scotland it was always my ambition to return home to progress and drive forward our farming operation.

“I believe it is imperative that our generation is engaged with and positively influences where and how our milk is processed and consumed. Gone are the days of not having to think about our milk beyond the tanker leaving the farm gate.

“In order to prosper further when leaving the EU, the British dairy industry’s strategy has to be export led with a focus on adding value to milk in order to target key developing markets. Much ambiguity surrounds our country’s post-Brexit business landscape, but we as progressive business people need to see beyond any uncertainty and negativity by identifying key export markets and establishing practical ways of building trading relationships with them.

“From a global perspective the UK is incredibly well placed to produce milk with our favourable climate and continual genetic and technological advances at farm level. However, we require adequate product development, marketing and trading infrastructure in order to optimise returns from certain developing markets that we currently have very little exposure to.

“A recent report from the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN) shows the massive potential for export led growth within the British dairy sector.

“It predicted an increase of 1.2bn consumers globally by 2030 and an uplift in dairy consumption per capita from 116ME (milk equivalent of dairy products) to 135ME. This will require an additional 295bn litres of milk per year giving our industry a fantastic opportunity to flourish with such an optimistic global demand outlook.

“In 2018, fewer than 5% of exported British dairy products reached non-EU shores. Bearing in mind that by 2030 over 40% of the world’s population is expected to live within the Asian sphere, we need to explore these markets.

“My project will allow me to investigate dairy markets in Japan, China, Vietnam, India and the Middle East before travelling to learn from the masters of global dairy exports, Fonterra and Synlait, in New Zealand.”