Farmers Weekly Awards 2018: Ag Student of the Year

Royal Agricultural University (RAU) graduate Alex Dunn is the 2018 Farmers Weekly Ag Student of the Year.

Having recently graduated with a first-class degree in agriculture, 21-year-old Alex has big ambitions for her future in farming.

While she is currently working on a dairy farm in New Zealand to add to her impressive resumé, Alex hopes to become a dairy farm manager or get into milking goats when she returns to the UK.

She also has an inspired idea to help improve the agriculture sector’s below-par health and safety record.

See also: Meet the Farmers Weekly Awards 2018 Ag Student finalists

Alex Dunn

Reading, Berkshire

Alex Dunn

Alex Dunn © Richard Stanton

Student notes

  • Graduated from Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, this summer
  • Course: BSc (Hons) Agriculture, fourth year
  • Favourite module: Entrepreneurship
  • Ambition: Getting into milking goats on her return to the UK
  • Fun fact: Alex is a qualified open water scuba diver

Alex has been fascinated by farming for as long as she can remember and has never let the fact that she is not from a farming family become a barrier to her progression.

While some might consider her original lack of knowledge and understanding a disadvantage, it’s clear Alex sees it as one of her core strengths.

“This is an industry that is exciting and open to those not from farming backgrounds,” she says.

With a mind free of preconceived ideas about how something should be done, Alex has come up with a brilliant plan to help farms improve health and safety compliance and staff management without spending hours in the office.

App aptitude

“Poor health and safety in agriculture is a deep-rooted problem that needs a solution,” she says.

This is a matter she feels incredibly strongly about and she’s channeled her energy and enthusiasm into developing a prototype smartphone app. The app allows the user, such as a farm manager, to manage staff more effectively while also ensuring their safety when at work.

This isn’t just a pipedream either – Alex has credible ideas to secure funding to develop her app and has already bagged some money from her university to get the ball rolling.

“This app would help to protect staff and visitors by changing attitudes towards health and safety and promoting best practice.”

It’s no surprise that her favourite module while studying agriculture at RAU was entrepreneurship and this is part of why she is held in such high regard among her peers and university staff.

Her dissertation investigated the issues facing farmers after the UK withdraws from the European Union and the opportunities this presents for greater collaboration in the industry. Her experiences of working on dairy farms in New Zealand in recent years fed into this piece of work.

“In New Zealand there is a lot of focus on the business. In the UK we are very individualistic, but there are many benefits of co-operation and collaboration that would raise our productivity,” she says.

Future goals

Upon returning from working abroad next year, Alex will focus on getting into farm management while continuing to develop her health and safety app. Like many young farmers, her ultimate dream is to run her own farming business.

“I would also love to get into milking goats because this is a growing market in the UK. I like the quick response to actions in dairy and I’m good at reading people, so my short-term goal is to become a dairy farm manager,” she says.

Winning ways

  • A real grafter, is confident and is selflessly working to improve British agriculture
  • Somebody who sees opportunities where others see challenges
  • A strong ambassador for British agriculture
  • Demonstrates real entrepreneurial flair
  • Actively sought out work on many different farms in the UK and abroad to build up her practical knowledge and understanding of farming
  • Committed to improving agriculture’s poor health and safety record

A word from our independent judge

“It is clear that Alex is not only extremely bright, but also intuitively perceptive of farming issues well beyond her years. But it is the overwhelmingly high regard with which she is viewed by her peers and lecture staff, recognising her skills as a leader, a team player and an asset for British farming, which stood Alex out.”

Ian Pigott, Hertfordshire farmer and FW columnist

Farmers Weekly Awards 2018 Young Farmer of the Year is sponsored by Kubota

The other finalists were: 

  • Emily Hickman, Prestatyn, Denbighshire
  • Luke Cox, Tetbury, Gloucestershire