Young contestants bring shine to Yattendon plans

Building the Yattendon brand was a key part of the winning presentation and the team planned to do this with a membership package for the estate’s commercial tenant businesses. They carefully assessed the likely level of appeal to each of those businesses.

The scheme would help tenants and the estate itself to promote products and services through a collective Yattendon website and with vouchers, discounts and offers. This approach aimed to build long-term loyalty, profile and value.

Profitable renewables were of interest to the estate and the Reading team proposed a 600kW straw burner using estate oilseed rape straw to fuel heat for the dairy and commercial lets and to access support through the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. A 3MW solar farm was a further possibility but for the longer term.






On the inputs front, a move to liquid fertiliser was proposed, requiring a relatively small investment for a potential £20/ha saving.

The Reading team planned to complement this with variable depth cultivation to save fuel and improve blackgrass control as well as moving to a 6m controlled traffic system. However, it rejected no-till because of the yield drop expected in the first five years.

Its methodical approach included an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats along with a clear summary of recommendations.

“The judges felt that all the contestants presented a wide range of proposals but Reading University had more detail and were dynamic, enthusiastic and committed to their thoughts,” said Yattendon farms director Alastair Jeffrey.

“We felt that the winning team left us with a lot to consider, which made it very beneficial to Yattendon Estates in the long term. We would like to thank everyone for their efforts – the whole team at Yattendon Estates enjoyed the experience.”

As well as addressing the challenges set by the estate’s management, teams had to bear in mind the overall objectives at Yattendon. These are to improve asset value while producing cash surpluses for onward investment in the Yattendon Group and to use all the assets and resources of the estate responsibly.

Yattendon Estate, Berkshire

  • 3,642 ha
  • 560 cows (6m litres)
  • Small British White suckler herd
  • 1,896ha cropping – wheat, barley, rape, beans, lucerne, maize
  • 123ha Christmas trees – selling 50,000 retail and wholesale trees a year
  • Substantial residential and commercial lets
  • Pays full commercial rent to parent – the global Yattendon Group which also has property, marina, publishing and TV interests.

Yattendon Estate – The Farmplanner challenges

• Do opportunities exist for large scale farming enterprises such as Yattendon to be more directly involved throughout the value chain and how to demonstrate this in terms of increased profitability?

• How to measure the potential returns for green energy as a competing land use for traditional farming outputs such as photovoltaic, anaerobic digestion, biomass and oilseed rape fuel oil.

• Given the farm’s current involvement in the use of precision farming and other technologies, which areas will bring the most improved returns and why?

• Can no-till planting and controlled traffic systems improve the bottom line profit and what is the best way to demonstrate its real return to the end user such as Yattendon?

Farmplanner of the Year – what is it?

• Competition run by the Institute of Agricultural Management.

• An estate or large mixed farm is chosen as a case study

• Teams visit so they can prepare a business development plan for the estate

• Four finalist teams present their cases to the judges.

• Aimed at student teams at UK agricultural colleges and universities

The judging panel this year included members of the Yattendon board, farms director Alastair Jeffrey, Piers Costley of sponsor Farmplan, Tim Brigstocke and Richard Cooksley from IAgrM and Farmers Weekly’s Business Editor Suzie Horne.

If you would like to give students the chance to test their mettle on your farm business or estate, please contact IAGRM director Richard Cooksley on 01275 843825 or

Who took part this year?

Bridgwater College, Somerset

Bishop Burton, East Yorkshire

Duchy College, Cornwall

Hadlow College, Kent

Harper Adams University College, Shropshire

Hartpury College, Gloucestershire

Myerscough College, Lancashire

Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne

Plumpton College, Sussex

Reading University, Berkshire

Writtle College, Essex

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