RAU 175th Anniversary Celebratory Lecture Series: the future of farming, food production and land management

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU) will both reflect on the past and look to the future as it celebrates its 175th anniversary, with a series of lectures and debates on the challenges and opportunities of farming, food production and land management.

The inaugural event in the lecture series took place this week with a lecture delivered by Richard Williamson, Managing Director of Beeswax Dyson Farming. Owned by Sir James Dyson, with innovation at its core, the company is the largest farming enterprise in the UK seeking to balance sustainability with productivity and quality of produce. 

Richard, an RAU alumnus, spoke about farming business strategy to an audience of more than 200 people including students, staff, alumni, stakeholders, dignitaries, farmers and industry representatives.

The lecture focused on the new world facing British farming outside of the EU, covering issues including diversification, long term strategic planning, entrepreneurialism, carbon reduction, digitalisation, data integrity, understanding customer needs, the importance of marketing and non-reliance on basic payments.

“I think this is a time of significant opportunities,” said Richard, who stressed that farming enterprises would need to be more professional and business-like, less opportunistic, and invest for the long term, taking some risk if necessary to do so.

“I’m optimistic for the industry. Farmers have always been able to adapt. This time however, it may be adapting even more than you have historically,” he said.

Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the RAU, said: “When the first cohort of students arrived in 1845, at what was then the Royal Agricultural College, they were there to learn how to improve farming productivity as Britain was changing from a rural to an urban economy. It is fitting that the first in our 175th celebratory lecture series should focus on the future of farming and how the industry can adapt so that 175 years from now it is thriving and at the heart of our economy.

“I am delighted that this thought-provoking and inspiring lecture was delivered by Richard - an alumnus who now leads one of the biggest businesses in the sector. This shows the impact that graduates of the RAU continue to have as leaders in the land-based industries.”

The next event, to be held on Thursday 2 April, will debate with Dr Dieter Helm the future of rural estates. Upcoming lectures throughout the year will cover topics including agri-tech and food security, with a heritage lecture planned for May when the RAU launches its new Cultural Heritage Institute in Swindon. The series will end with the Bledisloe Lecture delivered by Helen Browning OBE, Chief Executive of the Soil Association, on Wednesday 25 November.

Further celebratory events include an open day for the local community in May, an alumni ball and an international birthday party in September which will recognise the global reach of the institution and its alumni network.

The RAU is grateful for the support of its 175th anniversary sponsors; Creed, the foodservice company, Irwin Mitchell, legal services and financial planning, and Savills, experts in local and international property.

Further information about the Cirencester University’s celebratory events, including the lecture series, can be found at www.rau.ac.uk/175