Former Gurkha wins industry award for sustainable grazing idea

RAU Pinnacle Awards

A former army Captain has won an award for entrepreneurship in farming, with his plan to offer out-sourced cattle grazing services.

Alex Crawley, who recently gained the Cirencester Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) Graduate Diploma in Agriculture, claimed the £2,000 prize at the competition run by The Farmers Club and consultancy ADAS.

The Pinnacle Awards, sponsored by the Cave Foundation, present the Nickerson Cup to the best new idea from the UK’s top farm business management students. Key criteria are precise project reports and a strong business case, backed by robust financial analysis.

The eight finalists attended a judging day at The Farmers Club in central London, including an interview panel and 10-minute presentation to a room of fellow contestants, lecturers and judges asking questions from the floor.

Alex’s Grazing Management business idea beat competition from universities including Harper Adams and Nottingham.

His plan spots an emerging market for the grant-funded ‘hoof-powered’ restoration of rare species grassland through grazing, mixed with sales of ‘wild-flower fed’ premium beef. The project is aimed at meeting the needs of public bodies (like the MOD), for out-sourced grazing of large areas of low productivity grassland, offering full compliance with conservation scheme rules, environmental regulations, public access and TB movement restrictions.

Judges cited his “Excellent out-of-the-box thinking, consideration of key personnel, problem solving, communication skills and financial planning.”

Alex, 36, who lives in Cirencester, said: “In their feedback, the judges said they liked the strategic long term vision, the level of detail and the determination to make a go of it.”

Alex who served in Afghanistan and is currently working in the Civil Service added: “The military taught us to plan in real detail, look at the worst case scenarios and plan to mitigate them, which seemed to appeal to the judges.

“I think the agricultural sector has such a huge range; you can be dealing with genetics, global economics, ecology, ethics, business and biology all in the same morning.

Alex also met guest of honour, Deborah Flint who – with her husband Neil – runs the hugely successful Cinderhill Farm above the River Wye, in Lydney, Gloucestershire. The couple produce sausage rolls and pies using home-grown native breed pigs and wild boar.