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Hugh Crabtree hailed for 'truly transforming' pig sector

Hugh Crabtree has been issued this year's David Black Award for his exceptional contribution to the British pig sector spanning over 40 years. 

The prestigious award was presented by last year’s winner, Dr Zoe Leach OBE, at the National Pig Awards in London on 20 November. 

The accolade is awarded to an individual or organisation that has made an outstanding impact on the British pig sector through their work. 

This year’s winner has been actively involved in the pig sector for many years: Hugh Crabtree has dedicated his career to improving the sector's welfare and economic production. 

He co-founded Farmex Ltd – a market leader in ventilation systems for pig production in the UK – in 1980. 

Under his leadership, Farmex pioneered the “Barn Report” system – a real-time control and monitoring system that enables pig producers to remotely check vital functions, such as temperature, ventilation, water and feed flow, in controlled environment houses. 

The system has saved producers thousands of pounds and it delivers significant welfare improvements. 

Hugh has won the New Equipment Award at the British Pig & Poultry Fair three times, and his work is at the forefront of real-time production monitoring in the UK and the US. 

He has led three UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-funded collaborative R&D projects and is active in the field of precision livestock farming and the application of information and communication technology (ICT) in agriculture. 

Hugh's communication skills have been instrumental in highlighting the importance of proper environment control to improve both welfare and economic production. 

He has led industry campaigns such as “Winnie the Pig” and the iconic song “Stand by Your Ham”. 

Hugh has also encouraged young people to join the industry by founding the Nick Bird Award at Harper Adams University and he chairs the Pig Industry Scholarship Programme (PISP) group. 

And he has held several industry positions, including chairman of the British Pig Association, Allied Industries Group, director of the National Pig Association and vice-chairman of the National Pig Association. 

Mike Sheldon, chair of AHDB Pork Sector Council, said Hugh was an 'extremely worthy winner' of the award. 

“His commitment to improving the industry's welfare and production standards has left an indelible mark, and this recognition is a testament to his profound impact. 

“Hugh has truly transformed the pig industry through his pioneering work at Farmex Ltd., voluntary engagements, and advocacy. 

"His ability to make even the most mundane topics captivating has been a game-changer. His passion for the cause and exceptional communication skills have empowered pig producers and driven positive change. 

"It is great to proudly acknowledge Hugh Crabtree's unparalleled contributions to the industry.” 

Accepting the award, Hugh said it was a great honour: "I am delighted, if slightly embarrassed, by the recognition of my peers and sincerely thank all those responsible for my nomination," he added. 

"In recent years, once again, the pig industry has had some hugely challenging times. 

"But it is a measure of the people involved – with all their resilience, commitment and professionalism – that the sector will continue to provide safe, nutritious and healthy food while remaining passionate about the welfare of the pigs in its care." 

Published in Farming UK 24 November 2023