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Aberdeenshire students triumph in UK farm competition

By David Porter

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Two Aberdeenshire students are part of a team from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) which has won a UK-wide agricultural competition after Covid-19 restrictions allowed them to enter online for the first time.

Andrew Frank
Andrew Frank

Ian Armstrong and Andrew Frank, who study Rural Business Management at SRUC’s Craibstone campus in Aberdeen, won the Institute of Agricultural Management’s Farm Planner competition with three teammates.

Usually, the cost of sending a team to a farm visit in England has prevented SRUC from entering, but this year the students were able to join an online introduction to The Blagdon Estate, near Newcastle.

Ian Armstrong
Ian Armstrong

Ian, from Kintore, and Andrew, from Rennieshill, Newmachar, together with another student from SRUC Craibstone and two from SRUC Riverside in Ayr, then had to come up with a proposal about how to improve the business and take advantage of extra land.

They were among five teams to reach the final earlier this month and were selected as winners due to their “good, sensible and achievable suggestions for the farm”.

Ian (22), who runs his family sheep farm, said: “We had a proposal which included a sustainable and profitable arable rotation coupled with an LFA lamb finishing enterprise which would complement soil health and add to the diversity of Blagdon.

"We also prioritised stock health through comprehensive consideration for dairy infrastructure and sheep disease treatments.”

George Robertson, Programme Team Leader for the North Faculty, said: “Congratulations to all the RBM students from Aberdeen and Ayr, who won the IAgRM Farm Planner of the Year Competition after competing against most of the rural colleges in the UK to get through to a final of five teams.

“Their plan was for a reclaimed open cast mining site, and involved expertise in sheep, cropping, dairy, marketing and orchards.

"This is an excellent example of students pooling their skills together and they won on their own merits with very little support from staff. We are very proud of all five of them and their achievements.”

Tim Brigstocke, chairman of the judges, said: "The SRUC team showed a very good appreciation of the aims and objectives of the Estate and answered the questions posed on that basis, suggesting minor tweaks to the arable and dairy cow enterprises, introducing Shetland sheep, as well as a traditional apple orchard selling to the Blagdon Farm Shop - which would develop its own more distinctive branding.

“These were all good, sensible and achievable suggestions for the farm which would improve sustainability and enhance its financial performance.”

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