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University winners named in virtual ceremony

Students and staff at Harper Adams University are celebrating after being named prize-winners in this year’s Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) Awards.

Senior lecturer  Kit Franklin was the winner of the President’s Award – which recognises a mid-career engineer who has made outstanding progress in the agricultural engineering industry.

Kit, who progressed from his initial MEng (Hons) Agricultural Engineering degree at Harper Adams to become first a research assistant, and then a senior lecturer, received the award for the work he has been doing to drive forward the Hands Free Hectare and subsequent Hands Free Farm projects at the university, along with wider outreach and publicity for the Agricultural Engineering profession.

His work - alongside the project team – was highlighted by IAgrE during the virtual prizegiving ceremony. The success of the project – which is now being upscaled to become the Hands-Free Farm – and its impact in the press, on television, and on social media were all covered as part of the IAgrE citation.

Attendees were told: “Kit’s ability to drive this project and then present the work to listeners at all levels, demonstrating understanding not only of the technologies involved, but of the challenges that application of these technologies face in the agricultural field situation, make him an exceptional ambassador for the Agricultural Engineering profession.

“To have achieved this during the early stages of his career makes him a worthy recipient of this year’s President’s Award.”

Kit said: “I was surprised and honoured to be recognised and receive the President’s Award, which has previously been awarded to some very prominent members of the Institution and the Agricultural Engineering sector.

“After the challenges of lockdowns over the past year, the consortium has made great technical developments on the Hands Free Farm, which has enabled us to establish 30ha of crops for harvest 2021. Harvest will be challenging for both the technology and logistics - after which winter crop establishment drilling will use two tractors and drills working together to increase work rates.”

The newly-renamed President’s Award replaces the Michael Dwyer Memorial Prize, initiated by the Council of the Institution to celebrate the life of Dr Michael Dwyer who died suddenly in August 1997 whilst halfway through his two-year term of office as president of the Institution. In his memory, branches, specialist groups and individual members of the Institution made donations to establish a fund with which to provide an annual prize.

Three Harper Adams students were also honoured at the awards.

The Student Safety award was won by Huw Gilchrist, from Gloucestershire, for a project examining the design and development of a safe load indicator for a tractor and fore-end loader.

Huw said: "It is a real privilege and a great way to end my time at Harper Adams. It is nice to be recognised for the time and effort I put into the project and its potential to be developed further to improve farm safety.”

The project was part of Huw’s final year on his BEng (Hons) in Agricultural Engineering and saw him design and develop the safe load indicator – aimed at reducing accidents from lifting instability.

Both the undergraduate and postgraduate winners of the CNH Industrial Award were also from the university

Andrew Hardy’s thesis, looking into the development of a compact excavator attachment for lifting trees out of the ground with a root ball, secured the undergraduate prize, and William Hook’s thesis – examining the design and evaluation of seed dispersal units to increase seed placement accuracy on a Stanhay Pro Air Multiline precision seed drill using EDEM software – secured the postgraduate prize. 

Pictured: Huw Gilchrist


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