Hugh Crabtree wins 2023 David Black Award

NPA vice-chair Hugh Crabtree has won the 2023 David Black Award for his exceptional contribution to the British pig industry over 40 years.

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

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 – and Hugh, who co-founded pig ventilation system supplier, Farmex, in 1980 and currently sits on the AHDB Pork Board is a thoroughly deserved winner of this prestigious award.

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.

Hugh has been involved with the NPA since its formation in the late-1990s, serving for many years as its Allied Industry Group chair, before becoming a vice-chairman of the association when the producer and allied industry groups merged in 2019. He has been on the NPA’s board for many years and was awarded a Lifetime Fellowship of the NPA in 2019.

A former chair of the British Pig Association, he was a key figure in the campaigning British Pig Industry Support Group that brought ‘Winnie the Pig’ to Parliament to highlight the pig industry’s plight more than 20 years ago. An accomplished musician, Hugh was the behind the iconic ‘Stand By Your Ham’ industry classic as a highlight of his campaigning efforts. More recently, he was active in the Bite Into British campaign when crisis struck the industry again.  

Hugh is an Institute of Agricultural Engineers Fellow and he won the Institute of Agricultural Engineers Award of Merit in 2023.

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 Crabtree, 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.”


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