Announcing the winner of the Brian Chambers trophy for 2023

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The winner of the Brian Chambers trophy for the highest-rated FACTS candidate has been announced as Strutt & Parker senior surveyor Tom Coate. The trophy was fittingly presented by Dr Ian Richards, who also collected a lifetime achievement award for his services to FACTS.

Mr Coate comes from a non-farming background whose passion for agriculture began when helping a neighbouring sheep farm in Somerset. He went on to gain a first-class degree in agriculture at the Royal Agricultural University. Tom’s career started at a farm consultancy business before jumping into practical farming at a large estate in the Cotswolds run by Velcourt. He has since moved to Strutt & Parker as a member of their Newbury farming department and provides farm management and consultancy advice to their customers.

“It was a complete surprise when I was told I had won the trophy,” says Mr Coate. “I did FACTS to challenge myself and develop my knowledge. I am already using it with clients at Strutt & Parker. I consider the knowledge I gained essential to help them make decisions that improve their farm profitability and the environment.”

Mr Coate won the trophy amongst a talented group of nominees. Agrii fruit agronomist Emily Dimond and farmer Robyn Gibbons were announced as runners-up. Robyn hopes to follow up FACTS with BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection next winter and is keen to apply the knowledge she gained to her farm. Emily was also runner-up for the Paul Singleton BASIS project award when she earned her BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection. “I am delighted to have been recognised as a runner-up,” says Emily. “I enjoyed the opportunity to learn alongside other like-minded professionals across the industry and look forward to undertaking more courses provided by BASIS.”

Lifetime achievement award for Dr Ian Richards

Dr Ian Richards, was also presented with a lifetime achievement award for his services to FACTS. Dr Richards is well known to FACTS-qualified advisers as the provider of the FACTS information service for over 20 years. He sends quarterly updates and provides a technical hotline to almost 4000 qualified advisors nationwide. “Most of the support I give relates to changes to regulations, or an advisor has a nutrient analysis report and would like help to interpret the results. I enjoy the work. I often have to find the answer to a query; it is like being a detective.”

Dr Richards truly has provided a lifetime of service. His career began in 1968, and he has gone on to do most roles in the fertiliser industry. Advisors have been fortunate to benefit from his experience while he has been running the FACTS information service. Looking ahead to the future, he  believes there will be a continued requirement for agronomic support. “FACTS provides confidence to the industry. Those that possess the qualification are recognised as having a level of competence. For example, some parts of the new sustainable farming incentive (SFI) require a farmer to use a FACTS-qualified advisor. Without FACTS, how would policymakers know what an adequate level of expertise is?”

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