Three directors for the Oxford Conference

Three new directors have been appointed to the Oxford Farming g Conference (OFC) Council for three year terms. Their role is to help evolve the prestigious event to ensure it adapts to the future.

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 Sarah Mukherjee is the chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, representing the major agrochemical companies in the UK. She is also a former BBC environment correspondent; director of environment for Water UK and a director of the European Federation of Water Associations.

B2B consultant Barbara Bray is a registered nutritionist and food safety consultant, who has completed a Nuffield Farming Scholarship on vegetable production for improved human nutrition outcomes.

Tom Levitt, a former journalist on both The Guardian and Farmers Guardian, is an associate researcher for the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission. He was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship for 2017 to research the future of dairy.

The 2019 conference will be chaired by Oxfordshire farmer and editor of CPM magazine Tom Allen-Stevens, with Matthew Naylor, managing director of Lincolnshire’s Naylor Flowers, chairing the 2020 event.

"I’m particularly pleased with the calibre of directors that will take the conference forward for 2020 and beyond,” says Mr Allen-Stevens. “The make-up of the Council, with Matt Naylor as its chairman, will take OFC in a bold, new direction.”

Posted on August 11, 2018 and filed under People.

Major consolidation of UK’s farm vet sector

The Origin group of prominent farm animal veterinary businesses has been acquired by the Vet Partners network of farm and pet animal veterinary companies.

The addition of Origin’s vet brands, together with a laboratory and consulting business, will create by far the biggest, most diverse production animal team in the UK, says Vet Partners, which has its headquarters in York. The London-based August Equity venture capital fund already has an stake in both businesses, while the latest deal is backed by both August Equity and the Ares global alternative asset manager.


The Origin group comprises some of the UK’s leading production animal health businesses - Biobest Laboratories, farmIQ; Garth Pig Vets, Kingshay Farming and ConservationPoultry Health Services and Westpoint Farm Vets. It also includes the Farmacy online animal medicines supplier. Origin was created in 2014 when August Equity invested in the Westpoint Group, based in Bognor, West Sussex. The Origin name will disappear under the new ownership, but the individual business brands will remain.

Vet Partners was created in 2015 as an umbrella for a number of veterinary companies - its farm animal network includes Abbey Veterinary Group, Hale Veterinary Group, Hampden Vets, Penbode Vets and the Willows Veterinary Group.  The company says the addition of Origin will expand the depth and breadth of the group’s portfolio of companion animal, farm and equine practices.

The combined VetPartners business will consist of more than 70 small animal, equine and farm practices with 3,500 employees working across nearly 300 sites across the UK. Origin chief executive Mike Tims will join the VetPartners management team as operations director - production animal. The group will establish a new Production Animal Board, with members drawn from existing practices and future acquisitions.

“This latest development underlines our commitment to our growing farm division,” comments VetPartners chief executive Jo Malone.  “It will bring benefits of scale, local support for our teams and access to a wide range of excellent specialist services, as well as the focus and drive to move this part of our business forward.

“We now have some of the very best veterinary businesses from each species within our group. The next 12 months will see further growth in each of our species groups, as well as mixed practices.”

EU funds post-Brexit Welsh pig expansion

The Welsh Government is to invest £1.29 million in a project to help the pig sector in Wales to grow and “take advantage of opportunities after Brexit”.

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The funding, drawn from the national Rural Development Program and the European Agricultural Fund, will support the Menter Moch Cymru (MMC) initiative for the next four years. It follows a successful pilot project started in 2017 and ending in March this year.

The collaborative approach will include a range of supply chain partners to develop local products and markets while helping existing pig producers to expand their operations and encourage new entrants into the sector.

"It's a great opportunity for the pig sector, especially in the context of Brexit,” says Alun Jones, chief executive of Wales’ Menter a Busnes body. “It will give current Welsh pig producers the confidence and equipment to raise their businesses to the next level, with training and support for new entrants to establish enterprises."

Welsh pig units account for some 5% of UK pigmeat production, with numbers and productivity declining since the 1970s. But Mr Jones says the Welsh are great consumers of pigmeat, so there are great opportunities for local pig farmers.

Defra Code to reduce farm ammonia emissions

Defra has published a new guide to reducing ammonia emissions to help improve air quality, aimed at farmers, contractors and their advisors.


The voluntary Code of Good Agricultural Practice (COGAP) for Reducing Ammonia Emissions has been written by Defra in collaboration with the AHDB, AIC and NFU, with contributions from a range of other organisations including ADAS, the British Egg Council, the Environment Agency and LEAF.

The code covers ways to reduce emissions when storing and applying organic manures; applying manufactured nitrogen fertilisers; and feeding and housing livestock. It sets out simple steps that all farmers can take to reduce ammonia emissions such as using a nutrient management plan to calculate fertiliser application rates. It also includes more significant changes to slurry storage, spreading equipment and infrastructure, alongside innovative techniques such as slurry and digestate acidification and separation.

Defra says the code is backed by £3 million to fund a specialist team of experts over the next three years to offer famers support, advice and guidance on the most effective ways to reduce emissions from ammonia on their land. At the same time, the RDPE Countryside Productivity scheme offers 40% grants towards much of the manure management equipment recommended in the COGAP to reduce ammonia emissions.

“Our Clean Air Strategy highlights that agriculture is responsible for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia gas, ‘over-fertilises’ natural habitats with nitrogen and combines with other pollutants to produce fine Particulate Matter pollution which is harmful to human health,” notes Defra environment minister Thérèse Coffey.  “With clear new guidance and financial support we will help farmers across the country to take action, reduce emissions and help improve air quality.”

AIC chief executive Robert Sheasby adds: “We are pleased to note that the new Code recognises the importance of professional advisers in guiding farm practice. Those on the Feed Adviser Register and FACTS Qualified Advisers are already undertaking additional training that will update some 4,500 professionals on the Code’s requirements.

“By delivering advice tailored to the needs of individual farms, their crops and livestock, we will make a significant contribution to meeting Defra’s ambition for productivity and ammonia mitigation.”

Posted on August 11, 2018 and filed under Environment.

BASF completes acquisition of Bayer assets

BASF has closed the purchase of a range of businesses and assets from Bayer, divested as a condition of Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto.


In turn, Bayer can now proceed with its integration of Monsanto – although this deal was completed two months ago, US regulators required the two agrochemical and seeds companies to continue trading as separate companies until the BASF divestments were closed.

BASF says the acquisition of a €7.6 billion package of seed and crop protection assets is a “strategic complement” to its existing portfolio of crop protection, biotech and digital farming activities, while marking its entry into the seeds, non-selective herbicides and nematicide seed treatment markets. The transfer of the Nunhems vegetable seeds business is expected to close in mid-August 2018.

The wider range of businesses has prompted BASF to rebrand its Crop Protection division as Agricultural Solutions, to include a new global business unit for seeds and traits. The transaction will see some 4,500 former Bayer employees move to the BASF Agricultural Solutions team.

“This strategic move adds excellent assets to our strong agricultural solutions portfolio and enhances our innovation potential,” comments Dr Martin Brudermüller, chairman of the board of executive directors and chief technology officer of BASF. “Overall, it ensures an even more comprehensive and attractive offering to our customers.”

Saori Dubourg, the member of the board of executive directors responsible for Agricultural Solutions adds: “This acquisition transforms BASF in agriculture. It strengthens our market position in agricultural solutions and creates new opportunities for growth.

“After months of preparing the seamless transfer of businesses and smooth onboarding of employees, everybody is keen to finally get started – as a new team and with our expanded business and capabilities. We are looking forward to our joint journey and warmly welcome the new colleagues to BASF.”

Amur launches rapid AD plant test

Anaerobic Digestion (AD) operator and services provider Amur, an AB Agri company, has introduced what it claims is the AD industry’s first rapid inhibition test. The new test, which runs alongside Amur’s Bullet BMP test, gives results in 24 hours, compared to the 30 days required for existing industry analysis. Amur will offer the new test free of charge to businesses that sign up to its Bullet BMP service.

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The new test is based on sensitive bacteria that react quickly when exposed to inhibition-causing toxins. Previous inhibition analysis was limited as it could only be achieved through BMP testing, which checks for gas potential. Nigel Lee, general manager at Amur, explains that the new inhibition test gives operators more flexibility. Mr Lee says: “AD plants are offered new feedstocks on a regular basis and being able to understand the value of those feedstocks to the AD operator is critically important. Amur already offers the fastest BMP testing in the business. Running the two unique tests together gives operators total peace of mind and more control when feeding their plants.”

Mr Lee suggests this is a major step forward for analysis. “Every AD operator knows that diet is crucial to running efficiently and achieving optimum gas yields. Until now, operators have had to wait up to a month for confirmation that feedstocks are safe to feed. Now, they can source feedstock and be reassured that material is free from inhibition in just one day.” Amur’s Bullet BMP technology reports in three days, using near infra-red spectral analysis to identify components.

Posted on August 7, 2018 .

Kepak buys 2Sisters’ UK red meat assets

Irish meat processor and food manufacturer the Kepak Group has moved into the UK redmeat slaughtering sector through the acquisition of the 2Sisters Red Meat assets with immediate effect.

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Kepak has agreed to buy the UK business and assets of 2Sisters Red Meat, part of the 2Sisters Food Group, from its parent company Boparan Holdings for an undisclosed sum. The package includes three abattoirs - McIntosh Donald at Portlethen in Scotland and two St Merryn sites – Merthyr in Wales and Bodmin in Cornwall. There is also the St Merryn Victoria retail and foodservice packing facility; St Merryn cold storage and distribution facility at Truro and central office at Talgarrek House, St Merryn – all in Cornwall.

The Kepak Group, , based in Clonee, Co Meath, generates annual revenues of €950 million through the slaughter of some 275,000 cattle, 600,000 lambs and 350,000 pigs each year, and is a significant food manufacturer under its Rustler brand. The AgraKepak export subsidiary trades an annual 65,000 tonnes of beef, pork, lamb and fish proteins on global markets, particularly in Asia and Africa.

2Sisters Red Meat processes and markets around 250,000 cattle and a million lambs each year, drawn from 13,000 farmer suppliers from Scotland to Cornwall.

Kepak says the move will significantly increase the value and scale of the Group and strengthen key customer supply chain partnerships, particularly as both businesses are Tesco suppliers. It will provide a sustainable source of UK raw material for the Group’s meat-based food operations in the UK and Ireland, which supply both these domestic markets and European customers.

The deal is also a Brexit and €/£ hedge for Kepak’s existing and new Irish-UK businesses.

Boparan Holdings first acquired the businesses through its purchase of the UK poultry and red meat processing interests of the Dutch co-operative Vion Food Group in 2013. Vion, in turn, had bought them from the struggling Grampian Country Food Group in 2008, but had failed to turn round the operations in the subsequent difficult trading conditions.

“Kepak has a clear strategy to grow its meat and food businesses in partnership with key customers and in markets that are complementary to our existing businesses in Ireland and in the UK,” states Kepak Group managing director John Horgan. “This red meat business, with its very solid UK retail, foodservice and manufacturing relationships, is a great fit for Kepak. We will collaborate closely with the livestock farmers who have been loyal suppliers to these UK sites for many years.”

2Sisters is reported to be focusing on its core poultry meat interests. Earlier this year, the company was caught up in a food standards media storm, and it has recently divested some non-core convenience food manufacturing activities.

“We are pleased to announce this transaction of our Red Meat business,” says president of Boparan Holdings Ranjit Singh.  “Kepak Group is the ideal home for our Red Meat business, and this deal is a perfect strategic fit for them.  This deal represents another major step in transforming 2 Sisters and building a better business.”

Posted on August 7, 2018 and filed under Livestock, Company News.

GAFT Cycle Relay completes after 75 companies and 3,700 miles

The marathon GAFT Cycle Relay fundraiser, undertaken by the UK grain and feed trade, reached its climax at the NFU headquarters on Tuesday after six weeks of gruelling effort – much of it in heatwave conditions.

Since the official launch after the GAFTA Dinner on June 20th, the Relay has seen 37 days in the saddle and has covered a staggering 3,720 miles visiting 171 feed, grain and associated businesses, plus port sites across England, Scotland, Northern  Ireland and Wales.  In total, 617 riders took part in the relay, representing 75 companies.

So far £40,000 has been raised for the Farm Community Network (FCN), but this total is expected to rise significantly. Donations can still be made via the website.

 NFU president Minette Batters welcomes FCN ceo Charles Smith and cyclists from 10 participating grain and feed trade businesses to the GAFT Cycle Relay's Stoneleigh finish line .

NFU president Minette Batters welcomes FCN ceo Charles Smith and cyclists from 10 participating grain and feed trade businesses to the GAFT Cycle Relay's Stoneleigh finish line .

Welcoming the riders at the finish, NFU president Minette Batters said: “This relay has been a fantastic achievement, travelling a mileage equivalent to cycling from London to Kabul or completing one and three- quarter Tours de France!

“At a time when farming is facing considerable pressure and uncertainty, the supply trade has shown enormous commitment  by successfully raising the profile of FCN, as well as generating a significant sum to help fund FCN’s essential work. Farmers can be justifiably proud and grateful for the ongoing support and commitment of the grain and feed trade, something that will be ever more important in the weeks and years to come.”

The final stages saw cyclists from the Wynnstay Group; KW Alternative Feeds; De Lacy Executive; Bristol Port; Thomas Mawer (Hereford); Cultura Technologies; ABP South Wales; Lallemand Animal Nutrition; Biotal UK; Primetics and Lodders Solicitors take part. In addition, FCN chief executive Charles Smith rode the last leg of the relay.

“The way in which the grain and feed trade has galvanised its support behind FCN is truly wonderful, something which, I am sure, will benefit the industry for years to come,” commented Mr Smith. “I would like to thank each and every participant who has helped make this happen.

“The money raised will go a long way towards helping us to provide practical and pastoral support to those farmers and farming families who are in desperate need. But perhaps the even greater benefit has been the amazing amount of publicity generated which will surely have raised awareness of FCN’s availability to help those in need.

Richard Cooksley of the Bristol Corn and Feed Trade Association, one of the Relay organisers and driver of the support vehicle for the whole journey, said the Relay has been a huge success and exceeded all expectations.  “We have secured fantastic support from the grain and feed trade; have travelled the length and breadth of the UK raising the profile of FCN; and have involved a huge number of riders with no accidents or injuries along the way.  Most importantly, we have raised a substantial sum to help FCN,” he concluded.



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Posted on August 3, 2018 .

New Frontier store for South East Scotland

Frontier Agriculture has opened a new crop protection store and sprayer contracting facility at Drem near North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland.


The new store is designed to service farmers and growers managing crops between Fife and the Scottish Borders and beyond. It will also act as a strategic base supplying Frontier’s stores at Turriff and Invergordon, so enhancing the service for farmers using these facilities.

The new store, at Drem Airfield, is COMAH registered. It can store up to 420 pallets of products needed by local farmers, with a fleet of four delivery vehicles providing same or next day delivery. The contract spraying operation based at Drem consists of four self-propelled sprayers that can cater for all tramline widths and cropping options. Frontier has seven agronomists who work with farmers in Fife, East Lothian and the Borders, and the new store will facilitate their advice and recommendations. 

Steve Wooldridge, group operations director at Frontier, cut the ribbon at the opening event. He said: “Frontier is committed to Scotland and we’re delighted to open this new facility. Its introduction will enable us to provide even better service as well as strengthening our position in the region.”

Andrew Ainslie, commercial director north for Frontier, added, “Having the ability to store over 400 pallets enables Frontier to stock key products in advance of their requirement, avoiding situations where product demand is high and the pull of stock south of the Borders limits availability to growers in Scotland later in the season.”

Posted on August 3, 2018 and filed under Agricultural Inputs, Crop Protection Products.