R&D highlight for Hugh Crabtree in 2016

Pig World has invited industry leaders to share their Christmas/New Year highs and lows from 2016, while also expressing a pig sector wish for 2017.  Today’s contribution is from Hugh Crabtree, managing director of Farmex.

PW – What was your pig sector highlight/lowpoint of 2016?

HC – My highlight for 2016 has been our involvement with a collaborative R&D project that has five pig farmers as consortium partners. We hear a lot about the agri-tech strategy – especially because of the centres of innovation excellence that have been set up.

My gripe is that farmers do not seem to figure very much in this programme which is a mistake as it is farmers that will be needed to take the innovations forward into commercial practise. It has been very good therefore, to be leading a project which has farmers using the developing systems first hand, within their production systems.

A significant lowpoint was the death of an industry visionary and personal friend – John Godfrey. The sector can ill-afford to lose such experience and knowledge. On a happier and balancing note however, the Pig Industry Scholarship Scheme is attracting bright new talent into the sector.

PW – What do you most hope will be achieved by UK pig producers in 2017?

HC – I really hope that pig producers will grasp the opportunity to invest in their facilities and the many innovations and new technologies that are emerging from the public funds that are being spent under the agri-tech strategy. In light of the need to compete in cost of production terms and the likely regulatory restrictions on the use of anti-biotics – fresh facilities are a must.

PW – What one pig industry experience did you enjoy most in 2016?

HC – Speaking at the World Agri-Tech Investment Summit at the invitation of Innovate UK was an engagement that I approached with some trepidation on account of the Dragons’ Den nature of the limited time pitch to an audience of global investors. Last in to bat, what I had to say went down well and produced an extremely promising lead into China and an evening with some Norwegian innovators putting the world to rights. Great fun!

PW – Free pig sector comment – something you feel strongly about.

HC – We are familiar with the ups and downs of pig prices and although the classic “pig cycle” may be a thing of the past in the UK, the market is still very much influenced by world events. Every time the industry goes through a period of loss making prices for producers there is talk of improving the image of pork, focusing on eating quality and raising awareness of the excellent value of the product. There is always talk about new product development – which talk evaporates when prices recover. It really frustrates me that the blatantly obvious connection between the inexorable rise in poultry meat consumption and the many, many ways of buying the product never seems to be taken on board. Short term campaigns boost sales but what we need is hundreds more ways of buying pork that are nutritious, good value and convenient. Where are the pork nuggets and strips? Where are the high street fast food chains for pork?

Headline image shows Hugh with a microchip which he says has “transformed” data capture on pig farms.

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