A Nuffield farming scholarship is a unique opportunity to leave your comfort zone and help support UK agriculture with innovative ideas and research, while creating an invaluable network of global contacts at a personal level.
Each year, about 20 scholars are backed by Nuffield, with significant funds available to use for research in either farming, food, horticulture, forestry or any other countryside and ancillary industry.
Scholars are able to travel anywhere in the world and, on their return, present their findings, the conclusions they have reached, and their recommendations to the industry.
Dr Zoe Davies and Dr Jenna Ross are two scholars who both say they have benefited greatly from completing scholarships in 2012 and 2018, respectively.
The high-flying pair are calling on anyone with a research idea to contact the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust office or one of the organisation’s regional representatives, who can help with the application process.
The deadline for the next round of applications is 31 July.
Jenna Ross OBE: SlugBot
Dr Ross, who was recently awarded an OBE for her contribution to science and agriculture, said travelling the world as a Nuffield scholar helped her to notice a gap in the market for autonomous slug monitoring.
She spent more than five months speaking to experts, gathering data about slugs, studying their economic risk, exploring monitoring systems and investigating existing and future control options.
This led to a partnership with the Small Robot Company and the creation of SlugBot – a precision-spraying technology to control the pest using biological treatments.
The robot roams the field to locate the slugs and then spot-treats them.
Dr Ross said: “I wouldn’t have identified that gap and come across that opportunity if it wasn’t for travelling the world to see what others were doing.
“The Nuffield scholarship has been life-changing – it took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me in directions I never thought I would end up going.”
Dr Ross is the chairwoman of Nuffield’s Scotland regional group, where she works to recruit new scholars and promote the scholarship within the country.
Zoe Davis: Pig passion
Many people within the industry will know Dr Davies for her stellar work at the National Pig Association (NPA), and it was this passion for pigs that inspired her Nuffield trip through Europe, Russia, China, the US and Canada.
She investigated lobby and trade groups in the different countries, to find out how much influence they had and the techniques they used to support pig producers and fight their corner.
The NPA has a strong track record sticking up for UK producers, but Dr Davies wanted to see if there was anything more she could learn to help the organisation influence more effectively with limited resources.
“Because you have to be very organised and speak to a lot of people you would probably never consider meeting in your life, you get this huge network of contacts – not just the other Nuffield scholars, which is very important, but contacts from all over the world,” Dr Davies says.
“I still bounce ideas off a couple of guys in Russia and a chap in Canada. My own personal development was really important – it was confidence-building.”
In May, Dr Davies announced she would be leaving the NPA after 14 years, including eight as chief executive, to take on the role of NFU East Anglia regional director.
Chris Graf Grote, Nuffield chairman, says the scholarship is a journey of personal development that challenges people to explore new ideas.
“My advice to anyone applying would be to choose a topic you are passionate about and has relevance to your future and career,” he says.
“This is an opportunity to give yourself time for out-of-the-box thinking and freeing yourself from the daily routines to allow what you see, learn and experience to sink in.”
For people currently completing an application or for those who wish to do so, Nuffield is running online drop-in sessions this month to answer any questions about the process. General Q&A sessions will be held at 6pm on 6 July, 12 July and 20 July. To register, email email@example.com
Anyone attending the Royal Welsh Show from 18-21 July will also be able to talk to the Nuffield Wales team about their application.