In 2015, John Innes Centre students were invited by Agri-Tech East to take a stand to the Royal Norfolk Show. As the communications and outreach officer of the Student Voice at the time, I got the exciting task of organising this stand.
Agri-Tech East, an independent cluster organisation that brings farmers and growers together with scientists and entrepreneurs, hosts an Innovation Zone at the show. A John Innes Centre stand would be a great way of showcasing the innovative crop research of the institute for farmers, growers and the general public.
I met with the director of Agri-Tech East and the External Relations department at the John Innes Centre to decide on a theme for the stand. Later that month, the institute would be publishing a report on the pulse crop industry. This report predicted that pea and bean industry in the UK would double in size and value within five years. We decided that the Norfolk Show would be a great opportunity to get growers excited about peas ahead of the report being published.
— JIC Student Voice (@JICStudentVoice) July 1, 2015
One of the scientists at the John Innes Centre working on pulses is Professor Claire Domoney. She works on pea, looking at how the crop’s seed properties are controlled genetically. I met with her to get some insight into how her research could benefit the industry, and how I could incorporate this into the stand.
Peas and other pulses are a healthy source of protein and they can form an important part of our diets. They are also a high-value crop for growers, with dried pulses from the UK commanding a high export price of £400 a tonne. But in 2012, only 157,000 hectares of farm land was used for growing pulses in the UK, a figure that is in decline.
I designed three postcard-sized flyers for the stand, each one focusing on a different benefit of pulses. I also organised to have a selection of dried seasoned pulses for visitors to try. These snacks are made from UK-grown peas and fava beans and show how these crops can be marketed as value-added products.
Thousands of visitors came to the Norfolk Show and the other volunteers and I talked to hundreds of farmers, growers and members of the public. The then-Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, also visited the stand to learn about the UK pulse industry. And Claire Domoney, whose work was featured on the stand, spoke to the BBC’s Farming Today about her research.
Thanks to Nicola Brown, formerly the director of external relations at the John Innes Centre, and Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-Tech East, for giving the opportunity to organise this stand, and to Prof Claire Domoney and all those who volunteered on the stand.