Sentry Conference 2017: A Summary from Giles Cooper
A very interesting and thought-provoking day at the Sentry Conference. Precision farming was the first topic, covered by Chris Wigger of John Deere. The move towards more connectivity between the farmer, its staff and its support industries was viewed as the next phase in technological development to further drive down costs and improve efficiencies. David Walston then gave his view on whether he would change his farming practices post-Brexit. The answer was an emphatic “no” as he considered he had already made his business more resilient by adopting no-till crop establishment techniques. David questioned current practises on pest control (cabbage stem flea beetle in particular) and the importance of organic matter, leading him to reintroduce livestock to the family farm. Michael Aubrey of Mills & Reeve then had the unenviable task of covering the legal implications of leaving the EU. Clearly repealing the current regulations is not going to be straightforward and the overriding advice is if you are considering doing something to change your business or business structure, do it sooner rather than later.
The following two speakers sparked the most debate. Graeme Taylor is a lobbyist for the European Crop Protection Association. He provided alarming statistics of 250 withdrawn substances in recent years compared to only four newly approved, with ever increasing cost of registration. More worrying was the news that decisions are no longer purely science based but also political. Anne Jones, a journalist and broadcaster by trade, then discussed managing the media which she is currently studying through the Nuffield Scholarship. Being a farmer’s daughter gave her more credibility with the audience than perhaps other journalists would get, and she aptly demonstrated the challenges faced by both journalists and farmers in trying to get a fair share of coverage for the industry. The need for constructive journalism was also recognised. Anne is also part of the Countryfile production team with audiences in excess of 9 million. Although there were/are cynical views of its relevance, no other programme is covering the same subject matter. The most salient point, and one which most of us are already aware, is that farmers talk to farmers and non-farmers talk to non-farmers – the message being this needs to change.
Lastly was James Kerr who looked at the psychology behind the phenomenal success that is the All Blacks rugby team. James has also worked with other sports teams as well as military units. Key themes were humility, striving for excellence, values and vision. Certainly something to think about for all bosses and managers when looking how to get the most out of a team, and just as importantly, themselves.
Overall a very informative and entertaining line-up of speakers and congratulations to Ian Piggott and the Sentry team for yet another successful conference.