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We now ask that you take the time to read the candidates biographies below and select the two members who you would like to represent your sector.

The closing date for voting is Friday 25 January 2019.



Nigel Francis

I obtained my BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection in 1984 whilst working in Lincolnshire. Later that year my wife and I were asked to set up a new branch of the business we worked for in the Staffordshire/Derbyshire area where I have worked ever since. Twenty-five years ago I moved to a local business which was then taken over by one of the Country’s largest distributors. After a year I became Manager of a team now numbering 12 agronomists and several on-farm specialist support staff covering an area from Northamptonshire to Cumbria and across to Anglesey. I still look after some on-farm business to ensure I know what’s happening out in the field on a daily basis.

 I have been a BASIS Examiner for over 20 years and due to my understanding of the level of knowledge required to gain the CP Certificate I volunteered to help train our new recruits into the Business. Over the past 11 years I have run much of the in-house practical training programme for over 60 trainees; most of whom have succeeded and are now successful agronomists. I also hold the BASIS Diploma.

In 1999 I was the Regional Winner in the Agrochemical Sector of the Agricultural Trade Awards; going one step further in 2000 when I was proud to be awarded the National title. I was invited to be the lead agronomist on the water protection group for the local catchment area created at the start of the Voluntary Initiative and am still involved in the local water quality protection project.

Having been involved in the crop protection business for many years, and having worked with so many great people in the industry, I would be honoured to represent the crop protection sector on the Membership Committee and help to put your concerns and ideas to BASIS.

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Patrick Stephenson

I have a degree in Agriculture from Newcastle University. Following University I took a post with the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS) as a District Advisor in East Anglia. During this period I was seconded to a farmers discussion group as a paid Agronomist and later as a self-employed agricultural consultant. In 1991 I moved to North Yorkshire working for a company called East Yorkshire Farm Services as a partner. In 1997 I separated from East Yorkshire Farm Services and started my own consultancy and in 2001 was voted Agricultural Consultant of the Year by Farmers Weekly.

Currently, I act as a consultant to 60 farm clients covering 8000ha advising them on all aspects of agriculture from rotation, pesticides, cross compliance to business management. In addition, I deliver cross compliance advice on behalf of Defra and act as an agricultural specialist on behalf of the Highways Agency.

I also have a role as agronomist with NIABTAG assisting with farm research and knowledge transfer. I am part of the National team but with regional responsibility for the North covering an area from the Scottish borders to Peterborough. In this work I provide advice to the members totaling over 500 and influencing decisions on over 100,000 ha. Research carried out includes work on reducing the environmental impact of intensive agriculture, positive action for soil health, and the role of biodiversity in enhancing farm profitability I have been operating in this role for over 6 years.

I am the immediate past Chairman of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants, an organization with 240 members operating throughout the United Kingdom. All our members have rural business practices providing impartial independent advice to their clients. The membership currently covers 3 million arable acres across the United Kingdom.

I have relevant knowledge of risk assessment and management in commercial horticultural systems, including use of integrated pest management, through my role as a Technical Expert for the UK’s National accreditation body (UKAS). Assessor accreditation bodies in their assessment to comply with European Organic Farming Certification Standards.

My general approach to farming is one of positive optimism, born on the back of good ‘whole’ farm advice. This integrated approach enables my clients to progress their business forward via the most suitable vehicle to them, whether that be expansion, rationalization, merger or diversification.

With over 30 years experience in the business I am often called upon to deliver presentations on many aspects of agriculture, from waste management to biofuels. The breadth and depth of the business is developing all the time to meet the challenges of farming in the twenty-first century. Trying to keep abreast of developments is both challenging and enjoyable.

I am a confident and well practised public speaker ranging from the delivery of University lectures to speaking on the wider agricultural platform within the industry.

I am a founding member of the Global Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants (GAICC) and regularly attend meetings in America and have monthly Skype meeting with the committee from around the world. I have conducted lectures in New Zealand, America, Europe and Australia and have on farm experience within Europe and as far away as Brazil.

In the variety roles I have within the agricultural industry I work closely with a number of people and enjoy the diversity of opinions and management practise that I am involved in. I have been involved with a number of government bodies and have had to consider all sides of an argument particularly through my work with the Highways Agency assessing the potential agricultural impact of proposed infrastructure improvements. This has involved liaising with farmers and environmental pressure groups to understand the many factors behind the proposals.

I believe that we should strive for the highest standards for our BASIS and FACTS qualified advisors. This serves to enhance the industry by promoting the safe and effective use of pesticides and nutrients. In an upcoming era of huge change in agriculture it will be even more important to champion the high quality of our qualified advisors. BASIS needs to be the key player in ensuring public confidence in farming and the environmental management of the countryside.

I hope that the committee will benefit from my experience and expertise both in the practical sense of a working agronomist and my broader knowledge of Government and Accreditation .

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Paul Hobson

Time in the Industry: 35 years
Employment History: PGRO, Ciba-Geigy/Novartis/Syngenta, Hutchinsons
After graduating university (BSc Hons Ag Science and MSc Technology of Crop Protection), my early working years were spent in research and development. This began with Cathy Knott and Anthony Biddle at the PGRO, before moving to the Herbicide R&D Unit at Ciba-Geigy (Whittlesford) where I helped develop many new products - Topik, Hawk, Skirmish and also Moddus.

Over time I transitioned to Technical Support and then to field-based sales and marketing, initially in West Norfolk before taking on National Account Manager roles for two large UK distributors. After a short period back in Technical/Customer Support working with databases/CRM for Syngenta I moved over from “manufacturing” to “distribution” joining Hutchinsons in 2003.

My focus is strongly targeted at Training and Skills Development - ensuring all staff gain the most from professional development to enhance their agronomy/advisory role with their farmer/grower clients. I also assist with recruitment and trainee development through the Hutchinsons Foundation programme, which is both challenging and rewarding.

It is the combination of these experiences and interest in people – to help them succeed – which draws me to working with BASIS, especially for keeping the advisory standards high for all who give advice in the area of crop protection and nutrition. I have supported BASIS for many years, initially with exams (by being either an in-crop viva examiner for FSTS) or on the final panel (for FACTS or Advanced Crop module exams). For a number of years I served on the EXEC Committee - from 2012 till it’s work was completed in 2017 – helping shape the revisions to several BASIS Committees that have recently been put in place. The greatest input has been with the Membership Committee – assisting with clarifying it’s function and definitions of purpose, for which I would like to continue to serve both BASIS and the wider membership of the many BASIS membership schemes.

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Richard Butler

I support and advise Lincolnshire farming businesses with the agronomy of combinable crops, potatoes, field vegetables and salad crops.

Alongside this I have helped support Origin’s Ukrainian and Romanian businesses, in overseeing the agronomy on wheat, oilseed rape, spring barley and cover cropping and agronomy trials on several sites.

I also organise and lead an active programme of farmer discussion groups and workshops; and train and mentor young agronomists.

I joined Young Farmers at the age of 10 and was an active member through my studies at Caythorpe College and into my working life. As well as President of my local club I played an active role at county level and am currently an advisory committee member for Louth Young farmers. I have also twice chaired my local NFU branch (Alford). I was the first to gain the BASIS Harper Adams Graduate Diploma and am an examiner for both BASIS and FACTs.

Over more than 30 years in the industry – initially as a farm manager and then as an agronomist for Cleanacres Northern, Kenneth Wilson, Dalgety, Masstock and now Agrii – my role has changed immeasurably.

Field-walking continues to be the cornerstone of the close partnership I have with my growers. However, as well as agronomy, I now provide a complete support service that extends to developing integrated strategies to address key threats, take advantage of local opportunities, improve soil health and resilience, and address increasing pressures on chemistry and labour.

It also includes putting the latest precision technologies into practice and using local research to make the most of the cutting edge developments in plant breeding, crop nutrition and advanced decision support.

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that what we need, above all, in farming these days is a thoroughly can-do attitude with a willingness to embrace change and the flexibility to adapt what we do to the changing conditions we face – on a daily basis in many cases.

I act as the eyes and ears of my clients at research meetings and workshops, with colleagues and specialists at the forefront of plant breeding, crop nutrition, soil management, precision agronomy, decision-support and environmental improvement, and in the work I do on other farms in the UK and Eastern Europe.

We then explore and discuss together what approaches would best suit our individual farm goals and try them out for ourselves in our own trials or pilots before implementing, adjusting or rejecting them. We are always prepared to give new things a go (within strict commercial boundaries, of course) and change wherever we can see this might be for the better.

I count myself fortunate to work in one of the most important industries in the country with skilled and enthusiastic growers prepared to rise to the challenge of change, and colleagues with whom I can continually share research results, ideas and experience with.

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William L Conner

Tenant Farmer – 180 Ha – Cropping includes Winter Wheat, Winter Barley, Spring Barley, Oil Seed Rape, Peas, Beans, Winter Oats & Grass. Crops Grown in the past include Potatoes, Cauliflowers, Leeks, Lettuce & Radishes.

Farming experience stems back to helping farther in the 1960. Leaving school in the mid 1970 to work on the farm. Going to Agricultural Collage 1979. Large East Riding Arable Enterprise. Then Back to take over the family farm, Other work includes giving agronomy advice on a further 500 Ha.

Member of The Red Tractor farm assurance ADAS Friends of High Mowthorpe Farming Association Frontiers Crop Dynamics BASF On Track Agrii ifarm Bayer Perspective Syngenta Face Book

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John Gatenby

Wye College Agricultural Graduate
Joined BASIS professional register about 20 years ago Have taken many other courses with BASIS to achieve the BASIS Diploma in 2008 Our home farming system is based around crops for a beef fattening unit as well as potatoes, carrots & seed cereal multiplication with a (failed) attempt at commercial nettle production for fibre.

I like to think that I am able to represent the farmer/grower sector and have been an active participant in the HSE pesticide residues in food open meetings for many years. I am actively involved with the NFU, currently in my second term as council delegate.

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Shirley Loughrin

I came into the agronomic industry six years ago from the health care profession, practising as an optometrist. However, I eventually decided that despite the financial rewards and satisfaction from interaction with patients, being in a dark room and on a regimental diary of appointments wasn’t for me. From growing up on a dairy farm, I needed the agricultural aspect back in my life. I joined Tynedale Farm Services (a family agricultural merchant) in 2012 with a view to launch an agronomy business, thus the brand Tynedale Agronomy was founded. I studied progressively to reach the end result with my graduation from Harper Adam’s University with a diploma in Agronomy.

During my time in agronomy, I developed an understanding of the inputs and impact of the demand for productivity on agriculture in Cumbria. As a result of my efforts, Tynedale Agronomy now has a well established reputation for providing support to arable farmers. This has resulted in greater efficiency of their inputs and has enabled them to understand the bearing they have on achieving sustainability in an ever evolving industry.

From experience in my previous career, I developed the ability to communicate on an individual level. This skill has been transferred to my agronomy business, educating my clients and developing their understanding about the fundamentals of crop husbandry. By doing this, they are better equipped to move forward in adapting their farming practices and be more confident in embracing new technologies.

Whilst I have been at Tynedale, I have built a network of peers in the industry and utilise these connections when evaluating trial results for new products. As I am an independent agronomist and removed from corporate pressure I’m free to make my own informed decisions on which protocols to implement for the coming season.

I lead an active lifestyle and enjoy travelling both across the UK and abroad. I play a range of sporting activities, trying anything new and exciting that comes along. I read a great deal, both for pleasure and to keep up to date with the latest research developments. I do enjoy attending crop and machinery shows as well which is a good opportunity to get advanced knowledge of developments in all industries.

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Kelly Hewson-Fisher

I joined Anglian Water as a Catchment Adviser in April 2015, having spent 12 years with ADAS as an Agricultural Business Consultant. My background is very much from the agricultural sector; I left Harper Adams University College in 2003 with a First Class Hons Degree in Agri-Food Marketing and Business Studies. I come from a family farming background covering diary, arable and sheep enterprises from Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and Scotland. We currently farm 900 acre’s of arable in Lincolnshire which ensures I keep ‘hands on’ with the industry. I hold the FACTS certificate, BASIS Soil & Water, Plant Protection Award and Advanced Cereals Certificate. In 2016 I was awarded the BASIS Crop Protection Certificate with a nomination for the Barrie Orme Shield. This Autumn I will complete the BASIS Conservation course. I have completed PA1 and PA6 training.

 My current role within Anglian Water links the water sector with the agricultural sector - Each has priorities and objectives and I facilitate working together to find sustainable solutions for both. I engage with farmers and those within the agricultural sector on a daily basis, including over 90 agronomists across Lincolnshire. Over the last few years, I have been involved with the training on the NRoSO days, working with agronomist companies to deliver the training to hundreds of farmers and spray operators; working closely with the Rural Training Groups, attending their meetings and in field discussion days and having a regular slot on their annual BASIS training days. I have been and continue to be involved with the BASIS courses run by the University of Lincoln (Riseholme Campus) delivering technical lectures on a range of courses (Crop Protection, PPA and Soil & Water) to provide local and contextual information and am able to bring relevant case studies to the discussions where I have worked with farmers to achieve the sustainable outcomes required.

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Gavin Elrick

I work as a senior Consultant at SAC consulting specialising in soil and water consultancy. I have been involved in this area of work for over 30 years and provide advice on soil nutrients structure and drainage. As part of my work I have organised and taught on main FACTS course, FACTS NMP and BASIS Soil and Water course over the last nine years. I also carry out talks at farmers meetings and demonstration days. I believe that soils and nutrients are an essential part of maximising agricultural output and that well trained consultants and farmers are key to achieving this outcome.

If elected to the committee my aim is to act on behalf of the FACTS advisers and to ensure that training continually keeps them at the forefront of the industry.

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Colin Peters

I am applying to be on the BASIS membership committee as I have been registered for many years and feel that my experience would be valuable. The industry is facing challenging times with the loss of Ai’s and the perception of the public. I currently work as an amenity agronomist with lots of contact with the public and local authorities and would like to use this experience to help make sure that BASIS is seen as a credible industry leader in maintaining high levels of competence.

 After gaining a BSc in Agriculture from Nottingham University, I worked as an Agricultural agronomist, gaining my BASIS ag in 1991. I then spent several years working as a farm manager with Sentry Farming, (1991-1998) before moving to work for BBSRC as Head of Farms based at Rothamsted, (1998-2008). In 2008 I set up my own business and work in vegetation control and the turf industry in the south of England. We cover many aspects of invasive weed control as well as general vegetation control, contract spraying and all aspects of work in the turf industry both domestic and commercial. As such I am now on the BASIS register for Amenity. For the last 20 years, I have also been an NPTC trainer and Assessor for most of the spraying disciplines so have a good insight into how the industry works from several different angles.

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