Local MP’s fact-finding mission to Rothamsted Research endorses support for real-world value of agricultural science and the future of farming

  • 27
  • OCT
  • 2017

Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, today visited Rothamsted Research, one of the world’s leading research and development centres for agricultural science.

Afolami became Rothamsted’s local MP in February 2017 and has pledged to safeguard the interests of its R&D capabilities as negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU intensify.

“I don’t know that enough people know about the quality and frankly dynamism of what happens here at Rothamsted,” he said.

Afolami was introduced to Rothamsted by Achim Dobermann, the institute’s Director and Chief Executive, and by Angela Karp, its Director for Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnerships.

Angela Karp (Director for Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnerships), Bim Afolami MP and Achim Dobermann (Director and Chief Executive)

Angela Karp, Bim Afolami MP and Achim Dobermann

“It was great to see such inspirational interaction and interest in the research that we’re doing here at Rothamsted, not only in the UK but globally,” said Dobermann. “We have more than 500 people working across our sites, representing over 35 nationalities and collaborations with over 50 countries. Sustainable food production for a rapidly growing world population is a priority. These are difficult times and we need support to maintain our world-leading expertise and to be able to continue the work we do for all.”

During the two-hour visit, Afolami met young PhD students who are developing smart ways of protecting crops, learned how drones are used to monitor fields of experimental cereals and heard about the institute’s leadership of a programme to map Africa’s soils, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Bim Afolami MP, Amma Simon (PhD student) and Laura James (PhD student)

Bim Afolami MP and PhD students, Amma Simon and Laura James 

He toured the Lawes Open Innovation Hub, where science research meets entrepreneurial expertise, visited a laboratory that brings research institutions and commercial organisations together to focus on current and impending issues of crop protection, and saw the international conferencing facilities run by the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE.

“The three main things that I picked up are, first of all, the number of students. PhD students, postgraduates come here and work alongside their academic studies in very real world ways and have a practical impact on the work Rothamsted does. The educational impact of that, I think, is exciting and huge.

“The second thing is just the global nature of Rothamsted, it’s globally world renown. It’s been around for over 150 years [founded 1843] and having an impact in Africa, Asia, Europe and the UK. We should be very proud of that here in Harpenden.

“And the third thing is the practical, real world impact on farming today; whether it be arable farming, impact on livestock, how we do grazing more effectively, how we make sure that we aren’t using too many pesticides that, in the long term, will degrade our environment. All of those practical questions, Rothamsted is looking at right now, and I am absolutely full-throated in my support of this institute and we’re going to make sure that it has everything it needs to succeed.”

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) provides strategic funding for Rothamsted Research.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.