28th November, 2016
Attending a RASC conference as a Next Generation (NG) delegate is a great opportunity that I have been lucky enough to do three times (2010, 2012, 2016). The RASC recognised the need to embrace the younger generation to help promote succession within its own organisation and its member agricultural societies in 2004. Since then the NG concept has gone from strength to strength; this year in Singapore 65 NG delegates attended the conference from 15 different countries across the Commonwealth, demonstrating a huge range of culture and diversity.
Before the main conference the Next Generation had two days of their own, organised and run by NG’s from the host society (The Kranji Countrysie Association) and the RASC NG trustees Will Pritchard (Wales) and Ann Playfair-Hannay (Scotland). Day one was an introduction to the RASC NG concept, and background on past experiences at conferences and the understanding and assistance missions run on the years in between the conferences. We then continued the day with a range of guest speakers and panel sessions all of a high calibre – a direct reflection of the professionalism shown by the NG delegates. Our keynote speaker was the Head of Sales and Marketing for Syngenta’s Asia and Pacific region who delivered a brilliant speech about future leaders in global agriculture and the role NG’s must play in global food production and agriculture.
Day two saw the NG’s escape the conference hall to one of Singapore’s five universities, where we joined local students in a symposium of speakers and breakout sessions based around food production, the role of technology and food waste – a unique opportunity to meet and interact with local students. We then returned to the conference centre where we took part in a joint session with CEO’s from various show societies. This included a very lively Oxford Union style debate on the future of agricultural shows.
The next three days saw all delegates come together (250 in total) for the main conference. We were lucky enough to have opening speeches from HRH the Princess Royal (Vice Patron of the RASC) and Baroness Scotland the Commonwealth Secretary-General, another example of how influential and important the RASC. They both explained the important role that the agricultural industry must play in feeding the world’s population, global trade, empowerment of women and environmental sustainability. Their speeches gave the delegates a flavour of what was yet to come, but also set the bar very high for the rest of the remaining speakers. Wednesday afternoon then saw the whole delegation travel to the Kranji region of Singapore which is the one remaining area of countryside. Delegates saw three working farms; a goat dairy, an organic vegetable farm and finally a high-tech concept farm focused on growing leafy vegetables in trays mounted on 9 metre high vertical carrousels – the aim is to have the carrousels mounted on roof tops and the side of buildings.
The remaining two days were filled with break-out sessions which meant that delegates could choose which speakers/panels to listen to, the two main themes were global agriculture and agricultural societies. The global agriculture topics attracted a range of speakers, farmers, academics, politicians, advisors and economists to deliver talks on their specialist areas. Topics ranged from feeding a global population to women’s future roles and the effect of commodity prices. Show society topics were forward thinking and positive sessions tackled areas about how to engage with the public, agricultural education and embracing the next generation.
It was a packed five days, full of meeting old friends and new, networking, learning, knowledge transfer and discussions around our common ground – agricultural shows. The evenings were sociable and show cased everything Singapore had to offer, our hosts had everything organised to a tee.
The next RASC gathering is in Edmonton, Canada in 2018 and we are all looking forward to seeing what the Canadians have to offer – Singapore is going to take some beating!