A very worthy top agronomist

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Andy Hill, winner of the Agronomist of the Year award, sponsored by DuPont, was described by judges as a very worthy winner who is technically focussed, proactive and professional and eager to share his knowledge to new recruits to the industry, reports Chris Lyddon.

The Agronomist of the Year, Andy Hill of Exeter-based Matford Arable Systems impressed the judges with his passion for adding value and his keenness to go the extra mile to achieve maximum potential. Andrew displayed a high-level of knowledge of all integrated farm management and crop protection factors affecting his customers businesses.

“I advise in South East Cornwall and South Devon on the following areas; cereals, oilseed rape, maize, potatoes, spring beans, for 7000 hectares, excluding grassland,” he explains. “I have been a crop inspector for 30 years, and agronomist for just over 30 years, and keep up to date with my training via BASIS and BETA CPD modules.”

“I have been working with a number of customers for over 20 years, and am still able to pick up customers by invitation,” he says. “I’m proud to say that I’ve probably only lost five accounts over the course of 16 years. I still love my job, and am in constant contact with my core customers nearly 24/7, in season.”

In season, he works from mid-March until the first weekend in July. “My hours are 7 days a week, with four to five hours sleep a night, including managing the company with two of my fellow agronomists, which we purchased in a management buyout in April 2014,” he says.

“I have a very full, but mostly enjoyable role within my clients’ businesses and my company I help run, as an owner/director,” he says. “A typical day for me starts at 4am, when I complete my spray sheets and forward them to the office. I leave home between 7am and 7.30am, at the latest, when I begin my crop walk, often alone or I work with my customers all day, whilst fielding numerous phone calls from clients and the office. I arrive home between 9pm and 10pm and work through my spray sheets, until I need to go to bed.”

“Out of season, and for the rest of the year, my day mainly involves completing cropping plans and rotation, now with advice on cultivation and varieties,” he says. “I crop inspect the seeds we sell and manage our team of staff, completing sales training, basic payment forms, ELS and advise on and complete fertiliser plans.”

“I am responsible for the younger and newer members of the sales team,” he says. “I also head up Human Resources, advising customers on the purchase and renting of land, and am a sounding board for many of our customers when they are considering major farm changes.”

“To keep up with the latest industry technology, I take on regular training from chemical suppliers, read the latest literature trials and complete CPD training. I take a general interest in my vocation, as it’s not only a job, it’s a lifestyle. I regularly visit trial sites, and am a guest speaker at farmers and Young Farmer meetings during the winter months.

“Knowledge transfer is a big part of my job as an agronomist, and individual contact with farmers is important, alongside regular discussion of all aspects of agronomy, including rotation, cultivation, varieties, chemical changes, market changes, fertilizer and gross margins

Andy was nominated by his client, farmer Edgar Bowden. “I believe he really deserves this accolade,” he says. “Andy involves himself completely in his role as my agronomist, taking a keen interest in every aspect of my farm business. This complete approach and his in-depth knowledge of on-farm finances, crop rotations, legislation, crop marketing, farm machinery and cultivations, in addition to his core knowledge of crop protection and crop nutrition make him a stand out agronomist.”

“He is literally available to answer any question, no matter how trivial, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. He is always cheerful and I know he is genuinely interested in our crops and how they perform. All these factors combined with his vast experience make him an invaluable asset to my farm business.”

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