2020 winners follow up: Richard Anthony, Arable Innovator of the Year

A passion for farming and embracing opportunities, whether that be to acquire land or develop learning, characterise last year’s winner of the Arable Innovator of the Year category in the British Farming Awards. Marianne Curtis reports.

Beginning with a 45-hectare holding, Richard Anthony along with his wife, Lynwen, now run a diverse and profitable arable enterprise operating across 1,200 hectares.

Livestock and renewable energy systems are integrated in the business which also offers contracting services and has a primary focus on soil health.

The couple’s son, David, returned to the farm after graduating from Harper Adams University and now runs the contracting side of the business, including the forage harvesting, baling and tanker digestate spreading operation for the home farm and others in the local area.

R. and L. Anthony which is based at Tythegston Farm in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, includes owned, tenanted and contract farmed land.

“I always wanted to farm and took every opportunity when it came along,” says Richard.

“I thoroughly enjoy farming and always tried to do that little bit extra which opened doors as people such as land agents and landlords could see what we were

“We always try to give back to the land – our soil organic matter levels are very good and it is remarkable how good our carbon footprint is.”


Positioning the business to respond to the increased focus on environmental sustainability has been an important goal for Richard.

“We have always farmed with a balanced approach pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of production, but also how this can be achieved with minimal impact if any on the environment,” he explains.

“The main cultivation system is minimum or no-till, with no ground left bare,” he says.

“We use cover crops to reduce soil run off and condition our soils, increasing the diversity and biology in our soils, retaining nutrients and making them more resilient to wet winters.”

Between grass, maize and wholecrop, 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of forage is produced annually, mostly clamped, and sold all year round to about 12 dairy farms, supplying a steady income, with a small amount going to a neighbouring AD plant.

Often three crops are grown in two years.

The cereal crops are usually cut at high moisture contents, dried using a biomass boiler and marketed throughout the year.

Drying with biomass means that early harvest at higher moistures in a high rainfall area is justified so that in-field losses are reduced. About 2,000-2,500t of wheat is rolled and sold for dairy blends.

“We use digestate as our main form of fertiliser, produced by a local food waste AD plant,” says Richard.

“Accurate spreading of digestate and other organic manures dramatically reduces our inorganic fertiliser dependency, reduces costs, increases organic matter and reduces our carbon footprint.

“We have installed satellite digestate lagoons – with further planned – to ensure the material is close to the crop for when needed.”

“The sheep flock is a key part of our business helping us to maintain our grassland and provides an additional income stream.”


Richard is keen to trial new approaches to arable agronomy and to share and collaborate with people across the industry.

“I like to look at other things. A lot of what we do initially doesn’t work but you need to be willing to do that. In a lot of areas we have moved forward such
as companion cropping with oilseed rape.”

A companion crop of spring beans, vetch and buckwheat helps to reduce crop loss to cabbage stem flea beetle, the legumes fix nitrogen and the buckwheat mines phosphate, leaving a P bank that can be taken up by the oilseed rape with a potential yield benefit of up to 0.4t/ha.

“We have some of the best OSR we’ve ever grown this year and this has only come about through trial and error.”

As well as companion cropping, he hosts a series of different crop trials including fungicide, variety and herbicide plots with NIAB, plant breeders and Agrii. Other trials include variable seed rates, different drilling techniques, companion cropping and under-sowing maize. Numerous open days are held throughout the year in normal circumstances.

Shared knowledge

He also aims to visit and learn from other farms, an activity which has been curtailed by the pandemic. Such visits help him tackle challenges faced by the business, he says.

One challenge is the potential introduction of a blanket Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) in Wales which could reduce the amount and restrict the timing of nitrogen fertiliser and digestate applications.

“We have been talking to politicians to try to explain some of the unintended consequences if NVZs cover the whole of Wales and explaining the benefits of the system we run, applying only when the crop requires the nutrients.

“We have been trialling different products to increase efficiency of nitrogen applied and have invested in storage infrastructure and equipment on the farm.”

Bans on pesticides are also a concern and Richard is looking at biological, cultural and varietal solutions instead to try to reduce the farm’s dependency on conventional chemicals and artificial fertiliser. To address the loss of BPS support payments and possible lower farmgate prices because of Brexit, he is trying to increase efficiency and use poorer areas of the farm to enhance environmental payments.

Looking ahead, he has an eye on new opportunities.

“We are looking at drying grass and at alternative crops.

“We are doing a project this year in conjunction with Agrii trialling new proteins crops – haricot beans, chickpeas and white lupins. There is lot of controversy over soya being imported into the country and in my opinion growing soya in the UK is not a viable option at present, so we are keen to look at other crop options.

“We are also looking at increasing our direct drilling area and cutting tillage, but this has proven challenging due to our rotation and forage crops.”

Richard says he is very proud to have won the Arable Innovator of the Year category in the British Farming Awards which also recognises the wider team effort and Lynwen who is very much part of the business too.

“It shows we can grow crops in Wales. We have always been very open about what we’re doing not just for our benefit but for other farmers as well.

“The award has opened doors and hopefully it will open a lot more.

“People don’t see the value of farming for soil management, wildlife, soil erosion and carbon. It’s incredible, the more I learn about soils, the more I realise how little I know and it’s so inspiring to see some of the results.”

A word from the sponsor

Oxbury is the UK’s only specialist agricultural bank with a singular focus on British farmers. We understand farmers today face a range of unprecedented challenges and opportunities and, as an industry, farmers match this with unrivalled adaptability and resilience. Our mission is to give farmers a dedicated
bank that matches the commitment which farmers across the UK demonstrate each day.

We recognise the increasing pressures British farmers are facing, which incumbent banks are not responding to. We are offering reassurance to British farmers that there is a bank that spends 100 per cent of its time committed to agriculture.

Since the initial concept of Oxbury, we have built our business with leading farmers, agricultural businesses and bankers. We have a deep understanding of what the modern British farmer requires with our specialisation and dedication leading to a range of products which specifically support the needs of each farm  sector.

We have built a team of specialist agricultural relationship managers, who have the agricultural experience and knowledge to support farm businesses decisions.

Our banking platforms are 100 per cent aligned and built to enable quick decisions, flexible payment schedules and re-ignite relationshipbased banking – as it  should be.

Oxbury is building the agriculture bank for the future and welcomes all farmers who wish to adapt to the challenges and opportunities that this future brings.