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AtlasFram Group sponsors young agronomists


AtlasFram Group, the UKs largest farm inputs purchasing and crop marketing business, has taken the lead in attracting new talent into the agronomy sector by working with a local agricultural trust to sponsor three students from Harper Adams University College during their placement years.

The scheme will enable the students to work alongside experienced agronomists and in the AtlasFram Groups offices to see how a leading farmer-owned business operates, which will help them to decide whether agronomy is the right career choice.

John Humphreys, Arable Products Manager for AtlasFram, stated:

Independent agronomy has been a cornerstone of the AtlasFram business model since the late 1970s when we pioneered this new concept in agronomy, which allowed Members to achieve big savings on their input costs by separating agronomic advice from product purchases. At the time, there was a groundswell of demand for independent agrochemical advice and the most advanced wheat husbandry guidance, from stubble to stubble. Freed from the constraints of hyper-cautious ADAS advice and brand-biased company recommendations, early participants increased their wheat profits by up to 40/acre, a significant proportion of total gross margin at that time.

Independent agronomy is even more relevant today. Despite the fact that information is now more readily available than ever before, the key to unlocking its potential is converting it into specific advice. With the average age of agronomists now in the mid-to-late-50s there is an urgent need to ensure that good quality, independent advice continues to be available in the future.

Amongst the new generation who recognise that a rapidly-rising global population and increasing demand for food will provide a secure, rewarding future is this years placement student, 21-year-old Sam Vaughan. Born into a farming family at Kettering, Sam started at Harper Adams in 2006 and completed the Access Course before taking a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Crop Management with a view to becoming an agronomist. Now in the third year of a four-year course, he was offered work experience within commercial companies and those engaged in crop trials, but turned them down because AtlasFram is totally independent. During that time, Sam has worked in the AtlasFram offices, completed a project to examine current agronomic issues and their potential impact on the Group, as well as coat-tailing independent agronomists David Boothroyd and John Tunaley. Sam has enjoyed the experience and can see himself becoming an independent agronomist.

Due to commence his placement in August 2011, Matthew Lawman started at Harper Adams in 2008. Raised on the family farm in Cambridgeshire, where he enjoyed spending time with the agronomists who advised his parents, Matthew was always interested the profession and wanted to pursue his own path in the agricultural sector. Consequently, he believes that life as an independent agronomist might be just what he is after, but recognises that the most difficult hurdle to overcome is to break into the industry. That is why he believes the opportunity to gain experience through the AtlasFram scheme will be so useful.

Well-known independent agronomist David Boothroyd, who started his career in 1977 on ADAS experimental farms but left in 1984 to become independent because it allowed him to practise pure agronomy based solely on the needs of the crop, fully endorses the AtlasFram initiative.

Becoming independent enabled me to apply the knowledge I had gained working on research farms. The attraction of being independent is the relationship you have with your clients and the absence of commercial pressures, apart from achieving good results for them, explains David, who is a member of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and covers an area from Cambridgeshire to Hampshire. He adds:

There are very good opportunities for young people in this sector. None of us are getting any younger and until now demand has been met by sideways movement of talent from the trade, but that cannot continue. Although it is vital to attract a new generation into the profession, existing independent agronomists cant afford to finance new talent. I firmly believe that UK agriculture has a great future and with science playing an increasingly important role in crop protection and food production now is an excellent time for the next generation to become involved. That is where AtlasFram is playing a key role.

Details about the AtlasFram Group can also be found at or obtained from John Humphreys, Membership Manager, on 01728 727700.

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