Respected farmer and policy expert to work with AHDB

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Respected farmer, researcher and policy expert Professor John Gilliland will work with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) as a consultant for the next nine months, with a particular focus on helping to develop and implement a new environmental strategy.

A former president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union and ex-Defra Rural Climate Change Forum chair, Professor Gilliland will work with AHDB’s Environment team to support the development and delivery of the organisation’s environment action plan, as well as advising on reputation work.

Appointed a Professor of Practice with the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast in 2021, he is a well-known figure in UK and Irish agriculture, with nine years’ experience in the private sector, particularly through his role as the Director of Agriculture and Sustainability at Devenish Nutrition.

AHDB Director of Services Ken Boyns said Professor Gilliland would provide valuable insight and independent advice for levy payers from someone who has delivered in the field.

“John has strong technical capabilities and can combine commercial and on-farm experience in environment practices with in-depth knowledge of the environment policy landscape in the UK, as well as involvement in driving research in this area.”

Mr Boyns added: “He is an influential and respected communicator at all levels and is able to clearly describe technically difficult subjects to a non-technical audience, as well as debate environment practices with subject experts.”

Professor Gilliland has previously chaired the writing of the Sustainable Agriculture Land Management Strategy Northern Ireland, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), which has led to the £45m Soil Nutrient Health Scheme.

He has held a number of other key roles, including Director of the Oxford Farming Conference and was recently appointed to the EU Commission’s Soil Mission Board.

“I look forward to working with AHDB and its levy payers, whether it be on our journey to Net Zero, improving water quality, or creating more productive habitats,” said Professor Gilliland.

“As a practicing farmer, I have been privileged to also have been a farm leader, policy advocate, a regulator and an innovator. This experience has allowed me to help secure positive engagement from farmers while delivering for the environment through science-based policy formation.

“My passion is to find ways that turn the environment from a cost centre, to a profit centre within our businesses and where farming is seen as a vital part of the solution and not just the problem.”

Professor Gilliland has participated in a number of agricultural research projects at Queen’s and Devenish, including leading and chairing the DAERA EIP Innovation project ‘ARC Zero’, which has worked to accelerate seven NI farms towards Net Zero carbon.

For seven years he was also the project lead on the Devenish Research and Innovation Farm, The Lands at Dowth in County Meath in Ireland, an international research and education platform on ruminant agriculture’s relationship with its landscape, which sits within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Professor Gilliland will work closely with AHDB’s new Head of Environment, Delyth Lewis-Jones, who takes up the role after a number of years working as the Head of Dairy Development Wales. She has been involved in a number of animal health and environment focused projects, as part of the Dairy Improvement Programme. Both begin in their new roles from 1 March 2023.