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Thursday, 8 March 2012


Thursday 8th March

Today I was hosted by Rob Bebbington a 2009 Nuffield Scholar from Whitchurch. Rob is a director in a farm contracting business called Fieldfare farmers Ltd. I met Robs business partner Peter and his wife Susan. They showed me through the production recording software they use called Gate Keeper.

Checking out the workings of Gate keeper with Peter & Susan.

Rob said that this was some of the poorest soil on there farm, I thought it just about looked good enough to eat compared to Mallee sand.

Rob took me to visit Oaklands farm eggs, which is an amazing family business founded by the Alled Griffiths a 1974 Nuffield Scholar. They farm 1.4 million layer hens in a state of the art facility, where the birds are housed in colonies. They also have 3000 acre arable farm.

The packing plant packs 1.4 million eggs per day and is totally automated. Each egg is individually checked for defects before packing and is untouched by human hands from the time they leave the chicken to the time the pallet of eggs is loaded into a semi trailer.

A Long Drive

Wed 7th March

Today I visited James Peck, PX farms on my way to Whitchurch. James a 2010 Nuffield Scholar has a diverse contract farming business.  This includes cropping, haulage, grain storage, and solar farming.   James has a great model for a low risk way to grow your business by contracting.

PX farms grain storage facility, the shed on the right is a new shed in the process of being built when finished it will hold 46500t of grain

A couple of PX farms toy tractors.  I tried, but couldn't convince James that yellow looks much better when it is used to compliment the green.

PX Farms  new "solar farm", these solar panels are designed to track the sun, discovered in America during James's Nuffield these are the first of their type to be erected in England. According to James they are 35% more efficient than stationary solar cells.  During windy weather they automatically move to a horizontal position (as you can see in the picture) so they are not damaged by the wind.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Wed 6th March

Today I visited the UK Met office at Exeter,  this is where all forecasts for the general public, and government agencies in the UK are generated.

I learnt about some forecasting tools that are as yet unavailable to the general public but which can be used  to show the probability and timing of  wind gusts, which could be helpful when applying pesticides near sensitive areas.

I also visited the Exeter Cathedral and a Roman built wall dating back to the first century which surrounded the city.  During the second world war the cathedral was one of the only buildings that survived the blitz in Exeter. It is a trully amazing building, the photo in no way does the architecture the justice it deserves

On the way back to Bristol I discovered the hamlet of Loxton, it is quite a bit smaller than Loxton in Australia but very picturesque

Monday, 5 March 2012


Monday 5th March

I visited the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forcasting in Reading

The ECMWF was established in 1975 by 34 member states from across Europe. It employes 250 people with a Budget of 43 million pounds. It produces forecasts for member states weather offices of Medium range (2 weeks ahead) and Long Range (up to a season ahead). It's archives now hold 22.5 Petabytes of information (22,500,000,000,000,000 bytes) which is equivalent to a stack of CD's 41km high.

The birth of contemporary weather forecasting began when a German noble organised for regular recordings to be taken across a number of sites in Canada, UK & Europe in 1795.

The orriginal map showing locations of the first weather stations, a gift to the ECMWF from Germany

 Manfred kloppel; Scientific & Technical Assistant to the Director General of the ECMWF and my guide for the day, pictured next to a small part of the super computer used to run the forecasting models

David Richardson; Head of the Meterological Operations Section discussing charts which are used to check the accuracy of forecasting Models.

This is the ECMWF boardroom where the Governing council meets. Note the Tapestry at the far end of the room. This is a styalised version of the Isobars of a severe storm which hit Europe in Feb 1953 killing 2100 people and in which 3 million had to be rescued. It hangs behind the chairman, to be a permanent reminder of the main reason for the ECMWF.

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Sunday 4th March

Today I travelled west to Nth Sommerset (near Bristol) and a good friends place. I will base myself here for meetings over the next few days.  It rained for most of the journey and in places there was even sleet, and occasional white blankets of snow appeared accross the countryside. Sommerset is a pretty area with many small fields and quaint traditional english villiages. Farming here is mostly grazing, with a small amount of cropping of corn (wheat) barley & maize.


Sommerset Farming Land

See if you can spot the Phesent

English Farm Visits

Friday 3rd March
Today we visited Willows Farm & Thrales End Farms

Willows Farm is a fantastic example of seizing opportunities that are put in front of you. The way that Andrew Wolfe has used these opportunities to grow his business is amazing. Andrews word of wisdom that I Will take on is; "Don't build the overheads before the business"

Nuffield Scholar Ian Piggot took us for a great walk around his property "Thrales End". To kick the dirt and discuss the finer points of UK agriculture. Ian instigated "Open Farm Sunday" as an outcome of his 2002 Nuffield study. Open Farm Sunday aims to improve the relationship and understanding between townsfolk & farmers. This year 1 million school children will have visited a farm since the program began

We were fascinated to come across a bumble bee on Ian's farm, something not seen in mainland Australia, this critter is huge compared to the bees back home it is about 4cm long 2cm wide and its sting is much worse than a honey bee.

Well that sees the end of the 2012 Contemporary Scholars Conference. Tomorrow is the start of the UK leg of my personal study programme.

Quotable Quotes

Friday 2nd March

The venue for today's Speaker's was "The Institute of Directors" a popular business venue & a landmark of Londons Gregorian heritage. The Nash room where our meeting was amazingly ornate.

We had a fantastic array of speakers standout quotes were

"I am often lobbied by interest groups and influential people but never by farmers. I only see farmers when they have a problem they want to complain about." Dr David Hughes quoting David Yelland editor of the Sun.

As individual farmers it is up to us to passionately tell the positive stories to people of influence in the media and change the outdated perception that the general populous has of farmers.

"Despite the growth in China the current economic power still lies in the USA & Europe. When you look at the size of the US economy in terms of individual state GDP countries such as Australia, Russia, New Zealand and many others only have GDP the size of an individual state in the US." - Professor Allan Renwick

"Opportunities are all around you, the successfull weigh them up and choose the right one" - George Lyon MEP & Nuffield Scholar

"Conventional recruitment is a joke; When you find a good person work hard to make a position for them in your business which will meet their needs and goals, (then they will help you reach yours)" Angus Davison MBE & Nuffield Scholar 

"Making an impact starts with a projected persona. What are you projecting?" Lance Edenbry - Executive Coach

Listen to what your wife/partner is saying about your persona as they will probably know what you need to change, but may not tell you unless you ask with open ears 


Following this fantastic array of speakers we visited Westminster Hall and the UK house of Parliament.  This building is amazing and the stories held within its wall trace the development of our modern form of government, the Westminster system.

The history in Westminster Hall is amazing, it blew me away that I could stand on the same spot that William Wallace was tried and sentenced to death. (For those of you who don't know who William Wallace is, you'd better watch the movie "Brave Heart")

Saturday, 3 March 2012

An evening stroll

Thursday Night 1st March
We had a fantastic guided tour through the streets of London.
This place just oozes history, it is absolutely amazing.

London - New Zealand House

Thursday 1st March

A fantastic venue for toady's leg of the conference. Located in the centre of London the Penthouse suite of New Zealand House, lets you see many of the famous tourist attractions and landmarks.  I am told the view is better that that seen from "The London Eye" See if you can pick out a few icons in my photos

It was a bit foggy but you should be able to find the London Eye, The Shard, Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben & others??

Quick Dash to Amsterdam

Wed 29th Feb

Before leaving the picturesque Netherlands we had a couple of hours spare to wonder around the centre of Amsterdam.  As with most of the country many canals meander their way through the centre of this city.

A Farmers Dream Crop

Wed 29th Febuary We visited Koppert Cress Monster

Yes with a name like that it had me enthralled to, it is in fact a company that grows an amazing array of cress. Did you know that you can get cress and other herbs that taste like honey, mustard, chilli, and oysters among many others.

Yes this is all cress.

Cress must be a farmers dream crop with a window of five days from planting to harvest and sale.

 The huge array of different flavours of cress that this company produces and markets direct to chefs

Owner Rob Baan has travelled the world looking for plants with different flavors. He has a real passion for helping people to discover real food again instead of processed packaged food. He has a motto that if your grandma would not recognise a product as food you should think twice about eating it
Tuesday 28th Feb 

We visited Jonny Hogenkamps Pig Farm. This was not your usual pig farm but had attached to it an education facility where other pig farmers and also students from around the Netherlands could come and learn about best practice in the pig industry. Industry sponsors enabled students to use the facility at virtually no cost

Innovators - Henke De Lange
  1. Get out and look at the world
  2. Are Curious
  3. Find out what their customers want
  4. Find out what can you do so that tomorrow's consumers are more satisfied with your product