Meet the 2023 Speakers
The theme for the 34th CUPGRA Annual Cambridge Potato Conference is ‘Looking forward to disruptive solutions’ on 12th and 13th December 2023 at Robinson College with workshops in their state of the art conference centre, the Crausaz Wordsworth Building
Rufus is Managing Director of R S Cockerill, a family owned potato business located just outside York. He works alongside a team supplying prepack potatoes into the retail and foodservice sectors, as well as offering a full supply chain service to the crisping industry. The business has faced all the challenges of recent seasons, but continues to grow on the back of investments in new packing facilities and storage capacity. He has been in the Potato industry for over 30 years, since leaving Shuttleworth College in 1993. Rufus was fortunate to be awarded a Nuffield Scholarship in 2016 to study the challenges facing the UK potato industry. “It’s only when you step outside the UK potato industry do you see how varied and complex it is, compared with markets in Europe and beyond”, says Rufus.
Craig Richael is a Director of R&D at Simplot Plant Sciences where he guides the development of Innate® genetically modified and gene-edited potato products. His research team have created potato products having improved quality traits, higher yield, and robust disease resistance. Pioneering advances in genome editing and marker-assisted breeding to complement genetic modification of potato and other crops remains a priority of his work. Craig Richael obtained a B.S. degree in Plant Sciences from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from University of California, Davis. Craig enjoys putting into practice the J. R. Simplot Company’s motto, “Bringing Earth’s Resources to Life”.
Dr. Perry Bateman heads up the Science function for British Sugar, spanning Supply Chain and Agriculture. He leads the Supply Chain Scientific Services and Scientific Development Teams, focusing on enhancing cost efficiency in sugar manufacturing. In Agriculture, Perry’s work centres on crop quality development and leading the collaborative Gene Editing for Virus Yellows Resistance workstream for British Sugar.
Perry obtained a Ph.D. in Life Sciences and BSc in Biochemistry at the University of Warwick. His academic research specialized in the study of small Cysteine Rich Proteins in cereal seed development, involving extensive work with transgenics and RNAi technology. Since joining British Sugar in 2014, Perry has developed a deep understanding of the sugar manufacturing process and held various technical leadership roles.
Cathie Martin researches into the relationship between diet and health and how crops can be fortified to improve diets and address the global challenge of escalating chronic disease. This work has involved linking leading clinical and epidemiological researchers with plant breeders and metabolic engineers to develop scientific understanding of how diet can help to maintain health, promote healthy ageing and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Cathie has recently initiated collaborative research in China to research on Chinese Medicinal Plants, particularly those producing anti-cancer metabolites used for complementary therapies.
Cathie was Editor-in-Chief of The Plant Cell (2008-2014) and is now an Associate Editor for Molecular Horticulture. She is a member of EMBO, AAAS, a Fellow of the Royal Society, in 2014 she was awarded an MBE for services to Plant Biotechnology, in 2019 she was elected Janniki Ammal Chair of the Indian Academy of Sciences for outstanding women in science and in 2022 she was awarded the Rank Prize for outstanding contributions to research on nutrition.
Dr.ir. Marleen Riemens studied Plant Breeding and Crop Protection at Wageningen University. She obtained her PhD at the Crop and Weed Ecology Group of Wageningen University in 2009, completing a thesis with the title “On the development, environmental effects and human dimension of weed management”. Since 2003 she works at Wageningen University and Research Centre at different groups in different positions. First as a researcher at the Agrosystems Research group, and since 2016 she is head of the scientific research team Crop protection that focusses on IPM (Integrated Pest Management) in arable production systems at WUR.
Marleen Riemens has expertise on sustainable arable plant production systems. She is specialized in integrated pest and weed management. She was project leader of several projects related to the development of integrated weed management systems, side effects of pesticides on non- target organisms, novel monitoring and detection systems fitting in IPM systems, and cultural and mechanical weed control tools.
Erwan ALLAIN is an agronomist from Brittany, formed in AgroParisTech and who was Deputy Director of Bretagne Plants, which is controlling the seed potatoes produced in Brittany. He was in charge of the technical support of the team of advisers and was managing the lab of pathogens detection.
Besides, he has been Scientific Director of SOBAC for over 20 years, managing the team of engineers, technical support of SOBAC sellers. He is also responsible of regulatory affairs in France and abroad and also abroad technical support.
SOBAC is producing and selling a complex of microorganisms, which produce rapidly humus, storing nutrients, especially carbon (CO2, CH4) and nitrogen (NO3- and NH4+) in the soils, reducing the leaching of nutrients in the waters and the inputs to be sprayed, enforcing the adaptation to extreme weather conditions (especially drought and floodings) and the impacts of climate changes.
Dr Apostolos is a chronicle of determination, scholarly excellence, and groundbreaking contributions to the field of agriculture. His journey, began when he arrived in the UK (1998), bringing with him an innate passion for the land and its cultivation.
His quest for knowledge culminated in a PhD in soil and crop interactions looking at organic and conventional soil practices comparatively. His doctoral research contributed valuable insights into the synergistic effects of soil, water and roots.
In the professional arena, Dr. Apostolos is recognized not only for his robust academic profile but also for his hands-on experience in the field. He has refined his academic expertise through extensive work on field trials and agricultural product development. His practical experience has been complemented by his deep understanding of agronomy and technical matters.
As the former R&D Project Manager at Plant Impact plc and R&D Manager at Branston Ltd, Dr. Apostolos, fondly known as Tolis to his colleagues, has been instrumental in bridging the gap between academia, research institutes, and the agriculture industry. His tenure at these positions was marked by a collaborative spirit and a drive to innovate for the greater good of agriculture.
Jack studied at Swansea University and graduated with a BSc in Geography. Not originally from a farming background, he discovered an interest in agriculture when he worked on a mixed farm in Australia whilst travelling. On his return to the UK, Jack joined Bayer as a graduate trainee, where he spent 8 years in a commercial technical support role before specialising in horticulture, liaising with supermarkets, food processors and vegetable producers on crop protection, biologicals and digital farming. He joined Intracrop in 2022 as an Account Manager, working closely with distributors in the UK and overseas. Outside work, Jack enjoys spending time with his family, playing rugby and participating in various physical challenges.
Mark Stalham started his own consulting company, Mark Stalham Potato Consultancy Ltd, in November 2020. He was formerly Head of the NIAB CUF Potato Research Group and guided the overall scientific direction, development and management of NIAB CUF’s activities, including the communication of science into practice. With a PhD in crisping potatoes supervised by Eric Allen from the University of Cambridge in 1989, Mark has over 35 years of extensive experience at Cambridge University Farm and NIAB CUF and success in the areas of potato research and knowledge exchange, particularly with the various guises of AHDB. He now has a mixed portfolio, working on strategic research for large multi-nationals through to training courses for farm operators. He is currently an expert consultant on five Innovate UK projects.
CJ Wilson - I am a fourth-generation tenant of the Castle Howard Estate in North Yorkshire, farming in partnership with my wife and mother. We grow processing potatoes mostly for chipping and a few crispers, for delivery from November to April, alongside sugar beet, wheat, barley, beans, oats and grass. Other enterprises include finishing pigs in straw yards, roof top solar, and contract hedge cutting, potato topping, grain drying, baling and direct drilling alongside stubble to stubble contracting. I also host trials and write for the agricultural press.
I’ve grown cover crops since 2011 and have slowly found more chemical alternatives to produce healthier, more sustainable crops, and have used biostimulants more prolifically in furrow in the last 5 years
Dr Barbara Correia Principal Research Scientist at B-hive Innovations, currently leads the project TuberSense – Early detection of potato diseases through volatile sensing to reduce food waste in the supply chain, after being awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in 2021. Her role consists of scoping, attracting funding, leading, and delivering innovative R&D projects. Trained as a biologist, Barbara holds a PhD in Biology and Applied Biosciences from the University of Aveiro, Portugal (2017). She initially worked for eight years in the academic research sector exploring diverse topics within plant science and applied biosciences, and then moved to the commercial world, developing innovative agri-tech solutions for the fresh produce industry.
I have been working at Dyson Farming as a Research Agronomist for the past 4 years. During that time I have been involved with research and presentations on soils, cover crops, potatoes and strawberries. In addition to the research, I am a BASIS and FACTS qualified agronomist advising our farm in Gloucestershire and assist the whole business with the implementation of the Sustainable Farming Incentive. Prior to joining Dyson Farming I undertook a PhD at Cranfield University (sponsored by G’s Growers Ltd) and completed a BSc in Agriculture at Nottingham University.
Sir Charles Godfray
Charles Godfray is a population biologist with broad interests in science and the interplay of science and policy. He has spent his career at Oxford University and Imperial College and is currently Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professor of Population Biology at Oxford. His research has involved experimental and theoretical studies in population and community ecology, epidemiology and evolutionary biology. He is particularly interested in food security and chaired the UK Government Office of Science’s Foresight project on the Future of Food and Farming and recently stepped down as chair of the UK’s agricultural and environment (Defra) ministry’s Science Advisory Council.
Daniel Zeichner was elected to Parliament as MP for Cambridge in May 2015, and has been serving on the Labour frontbench as Shadow Minister for Farming, Food, Fisheries and Rural Affairs for the last three years. He previously served as Shadow Transport Minister from September 2015 – 2017 and was a member of the Transport Select Committee from September 2017 – November 2019. Daniel founded and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics, is chair of the All Party Parliamentary University Group and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Life Sciences, and is Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the East of England among others. Daniel has a History degree from the University of Cambridge, and on leaving university ran a small nursery with his partner in rural Norfolk before embarking on a career in computer programming.
Ed Hodson has worked for GRIMME UK Ltd for the past 11 years in a number of sales and operation roles and since 2019 has been the company’s Product Manager for potato equipment. The role is broad, covering many elements from market research, new product development, supporting the sales management with key account management, promotions and strategy along with machine pricing and building wider industry relationships. Ed is an advocate for the potato industry working closer together and is regular attendee, supporting CUPGRA events; he is also responsible for delivering GRIMME’s commitments to the PotatoLite. Since 2018 Ed has been actively involved in the Agricultural Engineers Association and for the past 2 years chaired the Farm Equipment Councils -Technical Committee. In 2019 he hosted a workshop at CUPGRA looking at the future of potato production, showing a vision of how the future could look and he is a regular attendee of conferences and is looking forward to presenting again.
Jim Egan is a sustainable farming advisor for Frontier Agriculture’s specialist crops and environmental
land management business, Kings Crops.
Jim joined Kings in June 2019, working across the whole agricultural supply chain while also providing
farm-gate support. Jim shares technical advice and recommendations across a range of agrienvironment
schemes and helps with the practical delivery of environmental options on farms and
estates. He has extensive knowledge on the effective use of cover crops in particular, helping farmers
and landowners to incorporate them alongside a variety of commercial rotations to deliver a range of
benefits and business objectives.
Prior to his time with Kings, Jim spent several years working with the Game and Wildlife Trust Allerton
Project as head of training and development, where he also helped to establish the Big Farmland Bird
Count. Prior to that, Jim worked as technical director for the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.
Matthew Back is a Reader in Nematology based at Harper Adams University. He teaches plant pathology and crop protection to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and leads a team of researchers who mainly investigate novel plant protection strategies for the reduction of plant parasitic nematodes (PPNs). The group have a special interest in how cover crops interact with PPNs in terms of host status and metabolite release. We have worked on various aspects of biofumigation with brassica cover crops including species/variety choice, sowing dates and chopping/incorporation. Currently, we have a project investigating partial biofumigation, which is based on the breakdown of root secreted glucosinolates by soil microorganisms. Another area of interest is trap cropping of potato cyst nematodes with solanaceous plants such as Solanum sisymbriifolium and S. scabrum. We are involved in a two year Innovate UK project investigating agronomy and efficacy of these species.
Dan is an Associate Partner with Ceres Rural specialising in Farm Management advice, bringing with him over twenty-five years practical experience, having previously managed a number of large-scale farm businesses across the UK for several National Farm Management companies, involved in the growing of potatoes, onions and sugar beet as well as combinable crops. In 2019 he moved into a consultancy role servicing clients in the West Midlands and Wales, in particular, the management of contract farming agreements and providing advice on crop management with a focus on profitable yet sustainable farming practises. Dan is an experienced agronomist and is BASIS, FACTS, ICM and BETA qualified, being on both the BASIS Professional and Environmental Adviser register. He is a member of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants, sitting on the AICC council as a director.
Originally trained as a Marine Biologist, Mark studied for a Masters in Aquatic Resource Management at Kings College, London. He subsequently spent eight years working for the Environment Agency, specialising in abstraction licensing and working across a range of regulatory teams. He joined SWS in 2021 as a licensing specialist and has since worked on various Environment Agency projects aimed at communicating future regulatory changes to water abstractors.
Former farms director and Chairman of the East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group, John has worked in irrigated agriculture for most of his life and fully understands the opportunities and pressures facing modern farming. He specialises in strategic project development and planning and manages the Felixstowe Hydrocycle multi beneficiary water transfer scheme. Recent work with the Water for Food group has put him at the forefront of national level discussions focused on securing the future of irrigated agriculture.
Sarah is a research associate focusing on crop development and physiology at NIAB. She was awarded her PhD funded by CUPGRA from the University of Cambridge in 2020 on capturing variation in canopy development and understanding how agronomic practices affect canopy growth. Since then, Sarah has worked on a range of AHDB storage projects examining the effects of storage regimes on agronomy, optimising MH tuber residue levels, and comparing inherent dormancy between varieties. She now leads the long-term CUPGRA Reference Crop project, quantifying nitrogen use efficiency in determinate and indeterminate potato varieties under different nitrogen application regimes. This work aims to help growers understand how nitrogen inputs affect crop development and answer the perennial question of “how much nitrogen does this crop need this year?”. Overall, Sarah’s work aims to equip UK potato growers to reduce resource waste and improve crop quality through a better understanding of potato crop growth.
Andrew Francis COO & Co-Founder TEAM Ag (UK) Limited.
Prior to co-founding TEAM Ag Andrew held the position of Farms Director for a large Estate and Agri Business with previous roles encompassing Senior and Production Management of combinable and root vegetable crops across a range of soil types and farming systems in tandem with enhanced habitat provision and consideration of local and national ecological indicators.
Andrew chairs the LEAF Marque Technical Advisory Committee and is a director and steering group member of the Breckland Farmers Wildlife Network, alongside an active involvement on a number of interlinked committees focused on water quality improvements within the river Lark catchment.
Specialising in soils and water use, notably irrigation, has provided further opportunities to consult on the content and design of future auditing processes that bring measurable change.
With over 35 years in the UK potato industry my passion to see a vibrant and confident UK potato sector has been dented, but not lost!
A 25-year journey with Fenmarc supplying UK retail, predominantly into ASDA saw us introduce Cost + contracts and equally face into vast changes across the industry. Overseeing the integration of the Fenmarc potato business into IPL/ASDA gave me the opportunity to see life “from the other side” working within retail and hopefully sharing the perspective of the supply chain.
I now work cross-industry in various Board and Non-Exec roles to further support and promote the UK potato industry.
Current roles - Chair of GB Potatoes, Chair of FPSA (Fresh Potato Suppliers Association) and Chair of Nene Potatoes, plus specific consultancy.
I still retain my vision of bringing the whole GB potato industry together to work as a collective group to promote our sector interests and support future prosperity.
James is a molecular plant pathologist and plant nematologist at the James Hutton Institute. Over his 8 years' experience working with plant-parasitic nematodes he has investigated parasite-host interactions, specifically; hatching, nematode surface-coats, screening for host PCN resistance and investigating host tolerance to PCN. James holds honorary appointments at the University of St. Andrews and University of Ghent providing nematology lectures and practical classes. James is currently project leader for the Scottish PCN Working Group.
NIAB Potatoes Research Development Manager
Peter joined NIAB in 2022 and leads the development of the organisation’s potato agronomy research and industry partnerships, technical services and consultancy activities, with a focus on the practical application of research outputs from across the organisation. This includes NIAB's potato knowledge exchange programme, including training and meetings/conferences, as well as in the delivery of demonstrations at events, trials sites and on-farm.