Andrew Francis

Elveden Farms, Norfolk

With a desire to ensure crop management decisions are informed, farm manager Andrew Francis has been heavily involved in trials for several years, with much of the farm’s trials work open to the wider industry though the AHDB SPot farm programme.

He typically conducts 20-30 trials annually across various crops – one trial looking at the use of organic manure is now in its sixteenth year, highlighting Andrew’s commitment to improving production systems.

In understanding the impact of changing production methods, he has been able to reduce inorganic fertiliser use by 10 per cent while improving crop yields and recognise pre-stress triggers in his vegetable crops in order to irrigate and fertilise them more efficiently.

Work on how nitrogen usage and irrigation affects nutrient loss both through surface run off and into the subsoil has helped him determine how best to irrigate and manage soils, both inside and outside his cropping area.

Crop combinations

Andrew is currently assessing the performance of different cover crop combinations within his vegetable rotation, with a particular interest in improving soil structure on field headlands as well as improving the farm ecology.

Taking this one step further, he is examining best practice cover crop establishment and destruction without the use of glyphosate, taking into account practical, financial and environmental implications.

To ensure all 43 members of staff at Elveden Farms are working towards the same end goal, Andrew ensures as many of his team as possible visit their customers premises to understand how tasks they carry out on a day-to-day basis can influence the quality of the final product.

On winning the award, Andrew saidWinning this award means a huge amount to me. But I’m not just a single person working there, and I am part of a large group effort. We put in so much hard work in what we do. Being an arable farmer is the reason I get out of bed every morning and we work to make products you can be proud to buy. Farming can be a lonely job so to win this brings together British agriculture.

The judges said about Andrew: The judges recognised Andrew’s clear commitment to trial work on farm and his willingness to share his findings with the rest of the industry in order to drive profitability and sustainability. He takes extra measures to involve all members of staff, constantly thinks outside the box and is willing to try new ideas.