RAU welcomes new Chair of Governing Council

Global food industry expert John Pain has been appointed as Chair of the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) Governing Council.

John will take over from The Rt Hon Michael Jack CBE – ex Fylde MP, former Chair of Topps Tiles plc and Chairman of Gs Fresh Produce- who retires from the role on 1 January 2020.

John Pain worked for The Wendy’s Company from 2011 to 2019 as Managing Director for Asia Pacific and Middle East (APME), doubling its restaurant count and entering new markets including Kuwait, India and Japan.

With a degree in Agricultural Economics from Newcastle University and an MBA from the University of Leicester, John has a background in marketing with leading UK brands such as Sainsbury’s, Nabisco and Diageo.

His career in International Quick Service Restaurants began in 1994 at KFC GB followed by assignments as Marketing Director for Yum! Brands in the Middle East, South Africa, Asia Pacific and VP of Marketing at Taco Bell. He returned to the UK for four years in 2007, as Marketing Director of the GBP2Bn Compass Group UK & Ireland business, before returning to the international arena with Wendy’s in 2011.

Rural Innovation Centre named after Gloucestershire agriculturalist.

The RAU’s centre for rural innovation and skills has been named in honour of the late philanthropist, businessman and agriculturalist, John Oldacre.

The John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre at Harnhill, Gloucestershire, part of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), was given its new title at a dedicated ceremony this month (12 December).

The foundation that bears John Oldacre’s name has been a long-term supporter of universities making significant donations to agricultural education and research. Last year the RAU received over £2m from the charity to secure funding for PhD and MSc students in perpetuity.

Present at the naming were John Oldacre’s granddaughters, Sally Bult and Jill Sinnott. They were joined by Professor Joanna Price the RAU’s Vice-Chancellor; RAU Vice Presidents The Earl Bathurst and Simon Pott, several RAU staff and a number of businesses linked with the centre.

Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the RAU said: “John Oldacre was a passionate supporter of agriculture and wanted to ensure that generations to come were able to benefit from the education and industry-relevant research that he championed. The university is honoured that the Rural Innovation Centre will carry his name and commemorate his Foundation’s three decades of investment in research and innovation at this University.”

Sally Bult said: “The family are proud that John’s long association with the RAU, with Agricultural research and with the county of Gloucestershire will be remembered in the name of the John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre. We are also delighted that postgraduate research will continue to be supported at the RAU, thanks to his Foundation.”

John Oldacre was the third generation of his family to lead its group of businesses, which were founded in Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire.

In 1946, after distinguished service in the RAF, he took on responsibility for the range of companies from his father. The Oldacre Group developed to the point where it was bought by Unigate in 1986.

The John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre offers rural skills training to both students and external clients in courses such as arboriculture, crops, pesticides and estate maintenance. It also hosts an array of research trials, and is home to a range of agri-tech start-up businesses which are members of the RAU’s Farm491 project, which supports and develops rural innovation.

University’s white wine hits the shelves of leading retailer

An award-winning wine created by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has been selected for sale by the Midcounties Co-op, in time for Christmas.

Cotswold Hills dry white wine is harvested at the RAU’s vineyard in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, with students involved throughout the process from grape to shop shelf.

Buyers from Midcounties, the UK’s largest independent co-operative, said the wine ‘pairs brilliantly with turkey’ and that it chose the new canned version of the drink because of its sustainability credentials and its stocking-filler size. It will retail alongside a bottled version, which it praised for its branding featuring the famous Cotswolds brown hare drawn by RAU alumnus Sophie Cotton.

The ripe grapes have been handpicked ever since the University took over the tenancy of the 2.6 hectare vineyard in 2016.

Women in Agriculture

Business and policy leaders gather at RAU to celebrate Women in Agriculture
Alumni and delegates from across the land-based sector met at our Leaders in Food, Farming, Land and Life conference, celebrating 40 years of women at the RAU.
The event was organised by Vice-Chancellor Prof Joanna Price, Ex Governor Teresa Wickham and Debbie Beaton. The event heard from inspirational speakers including Caroline Millar, who diversified her farm in Scotland into a luxury break venue, Sarah Dunning, whose business created Tebay and Gloucester Services, Jane King, CEO of AHDB, and Abi Reader, an RAU alumna and member of the NFU’s Dairy Board.
Teresa Williams, food supply expert chaired a session during which delegates discussed a number of relevant topics such as how to negotiate a fair reward.
NFU President Minette Batters who farms in Wiltshire told the conference about balancing parenthood and her leadership role.
The audience also heard from RAU alumna and paralympic athlete Suzanna Hext who has won medals in both dressage and swimming. She said: “The RAU is more than just a degree. It has helped me through the tough times, held me in good stead, taught me to be independent and dedicated to my work and my sport – more importantly it has taught me to enjoy life and have a good time.”

New Global Animal Welfare Assurance launched to improve lives of farmed animals

The RAU has a key role in a new initiative to improve the lives of farmed animals across the world.

Led by the University of Bristol, with support from Bristol Vet School and the RAU, the new Global Animal Welfare Assurance (GAWA) scheme launched on World Animal Day (4 October).

GAWA aims to share knowledge and best practice with farmers and food businesses to increase the proportion of animals farmed to high-welfare standards.

Funded by the Farm Animal Welfare Forum and Tubney Charitable Trust, the initiative has been developed with scientific support from the Bristol Vet School and the RAU and is an alliance of five experienced and trusted higher welfare assurance schemes. They comprise the Soil Association (UK), RSPCA Assured (UK), Beter Leven (NL), Global Animal Partnership (USA) and SPCA Blue Tick (NZ).

Together, the alliance offers the following services and benefits on the intersection between animal welfare, farming practices and auditing processes:

  • sharing experience, knowledge and best practice with membership organisations;
  • helping with the set up and development of animal welfare assurance systems;
  • offering consultancy to businesses to deliver on animal welfare pledges.

Professor David Main, Professor of Production Animal Health and Welfare at the RAU, said: “This alliance of higher-welfare schemes is a significant global initiative that can help consumers and the food supply chain source products from animals that have had an opportunity for a good life.”

Dr Siobhan Mullan, European Specialist in Animal Welfare Science at Bristol Vet School and one of the initiative’s leads, added: “This is a fantastic initiative which brings together like-minded higher welfare farm assurance schemes with the aim to improve the lives of farmed animals all over the world. By sharing best practice and expertise it is expected that Global Animal Welfare Assurance will facilitate the development of authentically higher-welfare schemes based on science-led standards, and ensure the validity of welfare claims made by food businesses.”

If you are a higher-welfare scheme that would like to join the alliance, are considering developing a higher-welfare system or are business looking for assistance in delivering higher animal welfare commitments, please get in touch. Contact: info@gawassurance.org

‘Critically endangered’ flower to be saved from extinction by University

A rare flower is coming back from the brink of extinction, after Kew Gardens entrusted its seeds to a university’s ecology experts.

The Red Hemp-nettle’s (Galeopsis angustifolia) distinctive twin flowers were a common sight 60 years ago. Now herbicides, fertilisers, and the spread of highly productive crop varieties have seen it almost disappear from our fields.

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has been selected by Plantlife, Europe’s largest wildflower conservation charity, as a partner in its Red Hemp-nettle reintroduction experiment, part of Natural England’s biggest ever species conservation initiative, Back From The Brink.

Work began in April when 27,000 seeds from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Millennium Seed Bank were sown in experimental plots under organic production, at the University’s Harnhill Farm, just outside Cirencester.

Lambing weekend raises money for Wiltshire Air Ambulance

Lambing weekend 2019 was a huge success, with more than 600 visitors to Harnhill Manor Farm – twice as many as last year which was affected by snow. The team this year raised £480 for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. Well done to everyone involved!

Entrepreneurial students shone at Cirencester youth market

Original artwork, glittering sunglasses and a tourism company were just some of the growing student businesses on show at this year’s Cirencester youth market.

The event doubled in size from 2018 with twenty four stalls in total. Eight enterprises on show from the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) included its own Muddy Wellies beer and Cotswold Hills dry white wine, as well as businesses ranging from clothing to marketing services. The market is organised by Cirencester Town Council and the E4 Group, consisting of the RAU, Cirencester College, Deer Park and Kingshill schools, which supports and encourages young enterprise.

Angolan mobile phone giant joins with the RAU to develop future farmers

Angolan agriculture students are training in the UK in order to return home and kickstart the rural economy, in a ground-breaking partnership between leading Angolan telecoms company, UNITEL, and the RAU.

UNITEL is funding six talented Angolan students, selected from over 500 applicants, to follow a programme of postgraduate training at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) in Cirencester.

The first intake started their studies on the RAU’s Graduate Diploma in Agriculture course in September last year, gaining expert knowledge and farm management experience along with the skills to train others once back in Angola.

University of the Year nomination for RAU

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) has been nominated for University of the Year, in a prestigious set of awards based on reviews from students themselves.

The RAU has made the shortlist of 10 universities competing for the top title in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2019. It has also been nominated in the Job Prospects category for the second year running.

The news comes in the same week the RAU was made a Centre of Excellence by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs – only the sixth university to gain this accreditation.

Whatuni collected over 41,000 student reviews from 160 universities and colleges, travelling more than 43,000 miles across the UK in six months.

Students answered questions on topics such as how well their university helped them find employment and what they liked most and least about the way their course is taught.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 25 April at The Brewery in London, hosted by comedian Omid Djalili.

Katie Duncan, Head of Communications, at IDP Connect which produce the awards said: “In a challenging climate for Higher Education institutions, there is nothing more rewarding than being recognised by their students for delivering such positive experiences. The reviews by current students that make up these nominations are invaluable for prospective students who use them to make decisions about their future.”

Julie Walkling, Director for Students at the RAU said: “Students are the focus of everything we do. These nominations recognise the transformative, inclusive experience being created here at ’OurRAU’, where students’ opinions matter and staff strive to improve teaching, facilities and the sense of community.”

The RAU offers a range of courses in agriculture, animal science, business, environment, equine science, farm management, food, real estate and rural land management.

This year it launched two new postgraduate degrees designed to help students becomes leaders in UK food and agriculture, post-Brexit; an MBA in Innovation in Sustainable Food and Agriculture and an MSc in Sustainable Food and Agriculture Policy.