Potato Industry award winners 2020

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

British Potato Industry Award 2020

Professor Ian Toth has been awarded the British Potato Industry Award 2020 in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the potato industry over the past 25 years

The prestigious lifetime achievement award was presented by AHDB Potatoes Chair, Alison Levett, as part of the Potato Industry Conference 2020 which was delivered via a virtual event held on 24th November.

Professor Toth is a senior scientist and the Director of Scotland’s Plant Heath Centre at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, Scotland where he has been undertaking plant health research for over 25 years, focusing his efforts on both strategic and applied research. This has brought him into regular contact with UK and devolved governments, the public and industry to whom he regularly presents his work.

He also discusses potential solutions to pests and pathogens, particularly in regard to potato blackleg disease. Professor Toth continues to be a cornerstone and leader of the internationally recognised plant health work at the James Hutton Institute and is a globally recognised potato bacterial disease expert.

Presenting the award, Alison Levett said: “Mention the phrase potato disease and Ian Toth’s name quickly comes into the discussion. Ian was trained under Michel Pérombelon at the Scottish Crop Research Institute but quickly became the “go-to-person” in the potato industry for all things blackleg and soft rot related and has more recently been working with the industry on a long term strategy to control PCN.

“Through a series of rigorous scientific studies and an innate ability to collaborate, particularly with industry, Ian became the Head of the Weeds, Pests and Pathogens theme at the James Hutton Institute. In this position he was responsible for delivering solutions for controlling blackleg throughout the potato supply chain and extending this knowledge into other potato bacterial diseases. His position at the interface of the science and industry sectors has recently been recognised by the award of Director of Scotland’s Plant Health Centre of Expertise. This centre is funded by the Scottish government to help co-ordinate plant health knowledge, skills, needs and activities in Scotland including at the industry-academia interface. He was recently awarded £2M by BBSRC, NERC, Defra and Scottish Government to lead a Bacteria Diseases Initiative grant on blackleg, the most damaging bacterial plant pathogen in the UK.

“Professor Ian Toth’s prominent position in potato disease is unrivalled in the UK academic-industry interface and I am delighted that he is the recipient of this year’s award.”

He obtained his PhD from Warwick University in 1991 on potato blackleg disease, and has since worked on plant diseases in agriculture, forestry and horticulture, as well as with soil microbes and microbial biotechnology, the latter with Novo Nordisk in Denmark. Professor Toth is also an honorary Professor at the Forestry and Agriculture Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

For more information on his research visit www.hutton.ac.uk/staff/ian-toth.

Above and Beyond Award

The Above and Beyond Award is for an individual recognised for making an ‘above and beyond’ contribution to the British potato industry. The recipient is Andrew Francis from Elveden Farms, a first generation farmer who has devoted his career to industry research and development and promoting the UK Agriculture Industry.

On presenting the award Alison Levett said: “Andrew’s clear commitment to trial work on farm and his willingness to share his findings with the rest of the industry to drive profitability and sustainability makes him the clear winner of the first Above and Beyond Award. He involves all members of staff in his drive for improvement, constantly thinks outside the box and is willing to try new ideas.”

Andrew joined Elveden Farms in 1994 and worked his way up through the company, becoming Farms Director in 2018 and taking on overall responsibility for the estate at Elveden as well as a ten year FBT with the Duchy of Lancaster and two contract farming sites with the Wellcome Trust. Andrew leads a team of 4 Farm Managers, 7 Assistant Farm Managers and 60 employees plus contractors, summer labour and casual labour. Mentoring new managers is a huge part of his role and Andrew is key to driving the business forward ensuring the whole team works well together.

Andrew always looks at the appliance of science and innovation wherever he can and supports the encouragement of transferrable technology from other sectors. He utilises research to conduct in house trials alongside the team at Elveden to gain knowledge and confront challenges which could arise within the business.

As the winner of numerous farming industry awards and a member of many professional interest groups he advises and supports others in the industry sharing his work and findings.

Elveden Farms hosted Strategic Potato (SPot) East from 2016-19. Following completion of the programme in January 2019, Elveden remains part of AHDB's Farm Excellence network, hosting further research and trials. 

Dr James Hardie Award 

The Dr James Hardie Award for 2020 has been awarded to Margaret (Mags) Skinner of the AHDB’s Exports team by the Pre Basic Growers Association. The Award is given each year to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to pre basic seed production or who has provided outstanding support to the Association over many years.

Mags has supported the Association over many years, was the first point of contact in AHDB and in the British Potato Council for Association members, sourced accommodation for meetings, worked to include Association business and interests in conference programmes and generally provided all round support to the Association. The Award was presented to Mags by the Association’s secretary and Treasurer Bill Rennie.

The Dr James Hardie Award commemorates Dr Hardie, Head of the Potato Section at East Craigs (now SASA), who encouraged early generation seed potato growers to form the Virus Tested Stem Cutting Association nearly 50 years ago and to aim for the highest technical standards in seed potato production. The Pre Basic Growers Association celebrates its 50th anniversary year in 2021.



a man holding a trophy














a man holding a trophy in front of a tractor







a woman smiling for the camera