The Henman Nuffield Scholar

Details of the Henman and Nuffield Partnership

Nuffield Conference 2017
Chairman of Education Karen Mercer with WCF Nuffield Scholars Alec mercer (2012), Peter Wiggins-Davies (2016) and Jonathon Gill (2018)

The Henman Awards were started in 1978 with a generous bequest made to the Company by Liveryman Philip Henman. His intention was that monies from the trust should be used to make awards to outstanding candidates to enable them to gain practical experience and to further their careers in agriculture, horticulture and associated areas such as food processing and marketing.

Nuffield logo
WCF proud to be working with The Nuffield Foundation

Partnering with the Nuffield Foundation

The Worshipful Company of Farmers is extremely proud to have developed a partnership with the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust. The Henman Committee felt  that the Company would benefit greatly by sponsoring their own Nuffield scholar. By combining with Savills on an equal 50:50 basis, the Worshipful Company of Farmers is able to sponsor a Nuffield scholar each year. The award offers financial assistance of up to £11,000 to candidates to travel overseas and work or study in a sphere of their choice.

What is a Nuffield scholarship?

NUFFIELD award around 20 individuals each year the opportunity to research topics of interest in farming, food, horticulture or rural sectors. Carefully selected scholars are able to travel anywhere in the world, visiting one or more countries in order to further their knowledge and understanding, with a view to advancing their respective industries.

Nuffield Scholarships provide an opportunity to:

·        Unlock individual potential and broaden horizons through study and overseas travel

·        Stand back from the day-to-day routine and study a subject of personal interest

·        Have access to the world’s leaders in food and farming

·        Deliver benefits to agricultural and related industries through knowledge transfer

Who can apply?

·        UK residents aged between 22 and 45 years old (inclusive) at the application date

·        Individuals working in farming, rural land-based industries, food industries or agricultural associated industries as an owner, manager or employee

·        Anyone engaged for at least two years in a relevant sector and who intends to remain involved in their industry

 The Mission:

            "Leading positive change in agriculture, inspiring passion and potential in people"

·        Building knowledge through global experience

·        Sharing brilliant ideas

·        Making things happen 

·        Developing tomorrow's leaders

·        Inspiring commitment 

The Benefits of the WCF Partnership with the Nuffield Foundation

The Worshipful Company of Farmers' association with the Nuffield Foundation means our scholars benefit from the international nature and reputation of the Foundation, (there are “Nuffield’s” in the U.K., Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, with associate organisations, with similar aims, in America and Denmark.) The scholar  has a much broader experience within the Nuffield fold than if he or she was working and travelling “solo”. Each year the new scholars from around the world meet for briefings and visits in order to help them begin to understand agriculture in its widest, international context. And before they start their travels, the scholars receive briefings in the U.K. and in the E.U. from banks, policy makers, politicians, researchers etc so that they start their travels with a good working knowledge of how agriculture policy and practice, both at a U.K. and E.U. level, is developed. 

To be a WCF/Savills Nuffield scholar within the Nuffield family is a huge opportunity for anyone's career and provides an unrivalled experience that scholars report 'lasts a lifetime'.

Enquiries and applications for an award should be made to the Nuffield Farming Scholarships

The 2018 Henman/Nuffield Scholar Jonathan Gill - automation in agriculture

Jonathan Gill, the 2018 WCF Henman/Nuffield scholar, is a mechanical engineer working on agricultural systems. Previously he has worked on a number of successful, 'Innovate UK' backed, projects for the “National Centre of Precision Farming”. 

His scholarship application was entitled 'How do we embrace Automation in Agriculture?', addressing how research has shown that human operation of agricultural machines is less accurate than automated systems. Jonathan discussed how the future farm will need to address requirements of higher productivity and ability to produce higher yields with less inputs. 

Unfortunately, these issues cannot be addressed with just one solution, as with the industrial revolution, the modern-day farm has started to evolve into a factory for food production. Automation is going to play a key role in the future and Jonathan would like to see how we can embrace this change globally. For example, a drone can spray where a standard wheeled sprayer cannot, with higher accuracy and produce no compaction, a threefold benefit to modern farming techniques. This is the new industrial revolution for agriculture and he feels that this topic is relevant across the whole farming sector. 


Jonathan Gill Henman 2018
Jonathan Gill 2018 WCF Henman/Nuffield scholar

In his application, he outlined how he hoped to witness how various automated systems can: Reduce costs - initial investment in technology can be high but over time this can be paid back by systems that have lower energy consumption;  Lower energy consumption - this may not just produce a saving on fuel, but more efficient machines running on other sources of energy may provide a solution;  Environmental benefits where less wastage and more targeted application will reduce the impact on our environment. The hope is that the modern-day farmer can be more time efficient with increase productivity - a topic that seems to affect all industries but one that needs to be addressed for all.  With his scholarship, Jonathan will be putting together a travel itinerary to enable him to undertake extensive travel to visit world leaders in their field.   

Holding a BEng Hons degree in Robotics and Automated Systems, he is a Robotics Engineer with twelve years experience specializing in mechatronic systems. Since 2013 he has been focusing on the operation, design and programming of aerial drones, their associated control systems and their integration within agriculture, the projects being: 

'Big Bale Transtacker' – a square bale accumulation trailer with no need for an additional loader.

'Hyper weeding' - using targeted inputs and energy to kill weeds inter-crop, reducing chemical use by up to 99%. 

'Auto Pick' - a strawberry picking robot that was designed to drive in poly tunnels to pick fruit, for which Jonathan automated the wheeled platform for use with this system.  

He is currently working on sprayer drone technology and working towards enabling active chemical to be used, working to be the first group in the UK to spray with a drone.

His passion is the 'Hands Free Hectare' - project. He never stops thinking about, he helped to write the bid and co-develop the project. The project aims to automate machines to grow the first arable crop remotely, without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground. Jonathan’s input has been instrumental for using open source technology and code to enable the automation of the processes. As a result of the success in developing the system for automating the tractor, there is a lot of pressure for automation of the Combine Harvester and it has been up to Jonathan to enable this, whilst also flying the drone to capture growth data on the crop and process to allow the Agronomist from Hutchinson's to analyse remotely.

 A fully qualified drone Pilot with permission for aerial work (now PfCO) working with Harper Adams University, he is the Harper Adams University Chair and Academic Lead for the Special Interest Group for 'Drones in Agriculture' for the National Centre for Precision Farming.  Jonathan has worked on oil platforms around the world as a Pilot technician controlling maintaining and managing operations required by a large ROV working with intervention tasks up to a mile deep under the sea. Jonathan also ran and developed ExplorOcean at the National marine aquarium which showcased the latest in ocean technologies with interactive displays.

 Recent trips to Norway and Canada have inspired Jonathan to mix nature and rural living with modern day technology and over the next few years, he plans to continue working with ever improving technology, adapting and bringing together innovation and developments from other industries and linking them together for agricultural use.

Bird Flu Vaccine
Bird Flu Vaccine

The 2017 Henman/Nuffield Scholar Dan Roberts to study Avian Flu

Dan Roberts is our 2016 Henman/Nuffield Scholar, which we are very proud to jointly sponsor with Savills. Dan is Area Manager for North Company Broiler Farms, Faccenda Foods Limited and he will be travelling the world in search of answers to the ever present threat of Avian Flu.

Some background from Dan

I am jointly responsible for overseeing a group of company owned broiler farms.

The area I manage covers 17 broiler farms, 42 employees and 4 million broiler chickens. My duties include visiting farms to ensure they are running smoothly and dealing with any issues I encounter. Twenty per cent of my working week will be taken up by meetings and admin. My role is to support the farms I oversee whilst also being the link between the broiler farms and higher management within the agriculture division. I will liaise on a weekly basis with internal departments such as Accounts, Agriculture Planning and HR. I will also liaise with external partners such as vets and contractors.

I am responsible for organising a Farm Support Team consisting of 10 employees and also for coordinating all holidays and time off within my area. One of my primary responsibilities is to ensure the employees I manage are happy and content. If they are carrying out their duties in a positive frame of mind the chickens, farm and ultimately the business perform. During routine farm visits I will inspect flocks to ensure welfare standards are

being maintained and also to ensure they are reaching the required performance targets. Modern day broiler farming is all about attention to detail, ensuring everything is in place to allow the bird flourish in its environment. I am constantly challenging my team to ensure they are maintaining the highest possible standards of stockmanship. Some of my most productive time is spent on farm in the poultry houses engaging with the farm staff. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing their passion for broiler farming shine through.

Dan Roberts at work
Dan in one of his broiler sheds

Dan’s Nuffield Study – Avian Influenza

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease of birds. The H5N8 strain of the disease has been found in wild and farmed birds in the UK. 

Since 2014 there have been several separate outbreaks of Avian Influenza (AI) in the UK. These outbreaks, like many others around the world have predominantly been caused by infected wild birds and breakdowns in biosecurity. As an industry we have experienced isolated outbreaks which have fortunately been contained within single units. To safeguard for the future we should be planning for and be prepared for a multi-AI outbreak. The risk of further AI outbreaks remains a constant threat to the UK Poultry Industry however, to reduce the risk we first need to understand it. I believe we need to explore all possible risk reduction strategies including Biosecurity Procedures, Contingency Planning, Diagnostics and Vaccination. Shared education between different countries will also have the potential to reduce the risk of future AI outbreaks with the recent multi-AI outbreaks in France and the USA potential starting points.

What is the wider impact of Avian Influenza 

It can take months rather than weeks before AI infected premises can be restocked. Businesses that supply straw, shavings, wood chip and pellet to the poultry industry would be impacted as would their own suppliers. UK arable farmers who supply feed wheat could find themselves with a surplus and therefore a flooded market with falling prices. The ability to export feed wheat from the UK may also be hindered with some countries having a policy in place of not importing from a country with an AI positive status. Businesses that rely on poultry litter to operate such as power stations and arable farmers could find their supplies cut off due to restriction zone movements. Restriction zones could also impact on farms that have diversified by adding a poultry unit to an already existing farm. Movements on and off farm would be severely disrupted. A lockdown on poultry movements would also impact on game fairs and poultry shows meaning a loss of trade for the organisers. Game shoots would also be affected by movement restrictions. They could find themselves unable to hold shoots, again resulting in a severe loss of revenue and a surplus of unusable stock. Public places such as lakes and wetland areas could also be impacted by restriction zone movements, especially if there is a sudden increase of wild bird deaths in the area. Again this would disrupt visitor numbers and lead to a loss of revenue for owners and therefore the UK economy.

What the Henman/Nuffield Scholarship means to Dan

Since moving into a management role I have had to challenge myself in areas that I have had little or no experience in. Managing people and dealing with customers has enabled me to develop and improve my confidence and communication. To have the opportunity to meet a diverse selection of people through a Nuffield Scholarship would enable me to further develop my communication skills. A Scholarship would also expose me to the wider UK and global poultry industry enabling me to build up a network of contacts and friendships. With this exposure I’m sure my career would benefit. The further I progress and the more I learn the better I will be able to contribute to the poultry industry and the wider agricultural industries. A Scholarship would also give me the opportunity to present to large groups of people, something that is equally frightening as it is exciting. To have the opportunity to travel whilst at the same time studying a subject of my own interest and meeting like-minded people would expose me to cultures and traditions I am yet to experience. Last but not least would be the standing within Agriculture that a Nuffield Scholarship brings with it. This is something that I myself and those close to me would be extremely proud of.

Dan’s Nuffield Study Tour Plans 

“I start my travels in March when the 2017 group go to London for a few days and then onto Brazil for the Contemporary Scholars Conference. After 10 days in Brasilia I will join my Global Focus Programme group to set off on the Africa GFP. We will visit the USA, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Kenya and South Africa over a 6 week period.

As for my own Nuffield travel plans they are as follows:

June 2017 (2 weeks) Europe. I plan to visit Poland, Italy and Holland whilst also attending the European Live Poultry and Hatching Egg Association General Assembly in Paris where the theme will be “Living with Avian Influenza now and in the future”. 

October 2017 (4 weeks) Canada, USA and Mexico. In Canada I plan to meet with the Canadian Egg Association and also a Canadian scholar who I met last year. In the USA I will spend time looking at the Avian Influenza outbreak from 2105 which was the worst in their history. In Mexico I will analyse the vaccination programmes they are currently using. 

January/February 2018 (4 weeks) Asia. I am yet to finalise plans for this visit. Initially I will like to spend time in South Korea (another country experiencing their worst AI outbreak), Thailand and China.

Nuffield Scholar - Peter Wiggins-Davies
Nuffield scholar Peter Wiggins-Davies on his travels

The 2016 Henman/Nuffield Scholar Peter Wiggins-Davies to Rural East Growth Strategy

WCF/Savills Nuffield scholar Peter Wiggins-Davies received his award in 2015 and began his travels early in 2016. He is studying 'The Evaluation and Implementation of Effective Growth Strategies on Rural Estates' and will be travelling widely in pursuit of answers to this taxing subject. Peter was a guest at the Company's June 2016 luncheon and gave a very interesting interim update on his work the full text of which can be found here Peter Wiggins Davis June 2016 Speech

It is clear from the interim report that this will be a piece of research that deserves to be widely read an considered throughout our industry. Peter has provided a further update since his speech and says the following

"I am pleased to report that I have now officially finished all of my travels. To date I have visited, Germany, Greece, The United States of America and Australia. I have met many inspirational businesses and people. The proud farming bond is truly global. I am now at the stage where I need to start writing my report and preparing for my presentation later on in the year."


David Walston
Davis Walston up to his neck in grain

The 2014 Henman/Nuffield Scholar David Walston explores soil fertility

David received his award in 2013 and started his travels abroad in January 2014 with his first port of call New Zealand. David kept in touch throughout his travels and his fascinating blog covering his time in New Zealand can be found here. David area of study concerned the management and improvement of soil fertility in the various countries and his fascinating and important report can be found here. David-Walston-report

Alec Mercer
Alec Mercer - The Worshipful Company of Farmers first Nuffield scholar

2012, our first WCF Henman/Nuffield Scholar, Alec Mercer investigates turning niche products global 

Our first Nuffield Scholar, Alec Mercer, was appointed in 2011 and he did his study tour in 2012. He is pictured with some of his chickens. He travelled widely and reported frequently on his experiences and has now completed his Nuffield studies and his dissertation on how to turn a 'Niche Product' into a 'National Niche Product' is available here.