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NPA stalwart Hugh Crabtree wins David Black Award

21st Nov 2023 / By Alistair Driver

Hugh Crabtree, one of the most influential figures throughout the NPA's history, has deservedly won the David Black Award. 

Hugh Crabtree DB23 NPAThe award was presented by last year’s winner, former NPA chief executive Zoe Leach OBE, at the National Pig Awards in London on Monday.

Hugh, who co-founded industry leading pig ventilation system supplier, Farmex, in 1980, is the NPA's current vice chairman, having served for many years as its Allied Industry Group chair, before the producer and allied industry groups merged in 2019.

But his association with the NPA goes back to its formation during the pig crisis of the late-1990s. At the time he was also a prominent member of the campaigning British Pig Industry Support Group that brought ‘Winnie the Pig’ to Parliament to highlight the pig industry’s plight.

An accomplished musician, Hugh was, later, the behind the iconic ‘Stand By Your Ham’ industry classic. More recently, he was active in the Bite Into British campaign when crisis struck the industry again.  

He has been on the NPA’s board for many years and was awarded a Lifetime Fellowship of the NPA in 2019. He will stand down from the NPA's Pig Industry Group after the elections in the New Year.

He was elected onto the AHDB Pork Sector Council in 2019 and is an Institute of Agricultural Engineers Fellow and he won the Institute of Agricultural Engineers Award of Merit in 2023.

The David Black Award is given to an individual or organisation that has made an outstanding impact on the British pig sector through their work.

The citation highlighted how Hugh has dedicated his career to improving the welfare and economic production of the industry. 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 in controlled environment houses such as temperature, ventilation, water, and feed flow.

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

He 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.

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

He 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. Hugh played a commendable role in developing the hugely reputable Building Suppliers Forum, which has been key in collating key information on important evolving topics such as adaptive farrowing for producers and policy makers alike.

Great honour

Accepting the award, Hugh said: “It is a very great honour for me to receive the David Black Award in my 44th year in the industry. My business had an association with the Black family right from the very start of our trading in 1979 and I have been aware of the award and its extremely eminent recipients throughout my career. I am very humbled indeed to now find myself numbered amongst them.

“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 whilst remaining passionate about the welfare of the pigs in its care. I am delighted, if slightly embarrassed, by the recognition of my peers and sincerely thank all those responsible for my nomination.”

Mike Sheldon, Chair of AHDB’s Pork Sector Council, said: “Hugh Crabtree’s contribution to the British pig industry is worthy of this year’s David Black award. The award honours his lifelong dedication, pioneering spirit, and outstanding contributions to the British pig sector. 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.”