The Farmers Club Pinnacle Awards 2022

HARPER Adams University has taken a strong one-two in the 2022 Farmers Club Pinnacle Awards for farm business management students.

Sponsored by the Cave Foundation and run with consultancy firm ADAS this prestigious competition drew entries from colleges and universities across the United Kingdom.

Overall winner was Ben Chilman of Harper Adams University, with William Pugh also of Harper Adams second, and Pavel Bocharov from the University of Nottingham third.

Practical solutions

Celebrating its 25th year the competition champions the young people who will drive rural businesses forward in the decades to come – a concept firmly espoused by awards instigator and 1997 Club Chairman, Roy Walker, nephew of the late Wilfrid Cave.

The 2022 judges were especially keen to see detailed plans to help farms cope with declining support payments, with a strong grasp of business planning, finances, cashflow and sensitivity analysis.

Prof William McKelvey, Chair of the judging panel, commended the finalists for their dedication in a difficult year. Given the severe challenges faced by educational establishments, lecturers and students throughout the covid pandemic the breadth and strength of entries paid great testament to the determination and grit of those involved.  

The judging panel included ADAS Technical Director Business Management James Dunn, Farmers Club Chairman and Devon farmer John Lee and Farmers Club Journal Editor Charles Abel, with the interviews, presentations, awards ceremony and celebration dinner all held in the Club in London’s Whitehall Court overlooking the River Thames.

The judges were looking for precise project reports, which made a clear business case, with strong financial accuracy and clear budgeting. “We are also looking for the ability to write a report concisely, and the determination to defend it, a clear presentation style, strong communication skills, and a good degree of common sense, and self-confidence,” noted Prof McKelvey.

The keenly contested competition saw ADAS whittle down a long-list of 14 to a shortlist of 8 for interview in the Club in late-April. Choosing the winners was not easy, the judges deliberating for almost an hour before arriving at their final decision.

Opportunities seized

“It is good to see business leaders of the future making the effort to enter a competition and seize the opportunities it presents,” noted Mr Lee. “The marketing and selling of their concepts really shone through.”

A strong focus on practical farming is a key judging criteria. “Support cuts mean all farmers need to keep doing what they are currently doing, but better, as well as seeking diversification revenue streams and engaging with climate change and environmental management,” Mr Dunn added.

He commended the strong desire of entrants to ‘have a go’ and grapple with the realism and complexities of a volatile and fast moving industry. “But ensuring all costs are correctly calculated, costed and attributed is also crucial for any business plan.”

See finalist reports at:

Ben Chilman, Harper Adams University

Pinnacle Gold, Nickerson Cup, £2000

Glamping pods near the River Lugg in Instagram-able rural Herefordshire were fully costed, with robust competitor analysis, achievable occupancy rates, and a dog-friendly USP. Business acumen and confident presentation skills were supported by good cashflow and sensitivity analysis, and an awareness of the need to handle any negative reviews sensitively. A snappy “snug on the Lugg” marketing slogan would benefit from more marketing spend.

Pinnacle Silver, £1000

William Pugh, Harper Adams University

Extending an existing commercial pheasant shoot’s infrastructure by adding 10 days per year of simulated clay shooting for 16 shooting enthusiasts per day was clearly explained, with strong visuals and a coherent strategy for marketing to the very specific target audience. Challenging topography, an existing shoot room with on-site catering and available labour made a strong business case, with low capital demands.

Pinnacle Bronze, £600

Pavel Bocharov, Nottingham University

Detailed analysis of a 160ha farm tenancy opportunity resulted in a wide-ranging 3-year business plan including tweaks to an arable rotation, significant focus on stewardship and new DIY horse livery. Extremely detailed costings and analysis, with cashflow and sensitivity considerations, justified every action, including a marked reduction in artificial fertiliser use, all geared to improving farm profitability, resilience and environmental outcomes.

Pinnacle Awards 2022 – Runners-up – All finalists receive one-year free Club membership

Hazel Murray, SRUC Auchincruive

Cosy Shepherd’s huts with hot tubs sited in magnificent scenery were well-promoted with clear videos highlighting local attractions, dining opportunities, star-gazing and rural tranquillity.

Kelvin Thomson, SRUC Barony

Gluten-free multi-vitamin dog treats produced from farm-grown ingredients would make pet care stress-free. Good market research, competitor analysis, product testing and business structure. 

Liam Gillbard, Nottingham University

Enhancements to a farm tenancy, justified by SWOT analysis, included diversifying into calf-rearing and beef finishing, plus regen-ag adjustments to an existing seed-focused arable rotation.  

Marion Muir, SRUC Ayr

Wool from Border Leicester sheep would be processed on-farm to create a niche range of tweed garments for internet sales, with influencer marketing to drive sales.

Toby Greenhalgh, Royal Agricultural University

Drawing on practical experience and good research a 24/7 milk vending enterprise would use provenance to market pasteurised and flavoured milk in a competitive marketplace.

For further information contact:

Charles Abel


Farmers Club Journal