Richard Soffe, a "titan” of land-based education, research and rural development, is retiring from his college career to lead a team at AHDB developing a strategy for the dairy industry.

Mr Soffe, director of the Rural Business School (RBS) at Duchy College, has been instrumental in developing land-based businesses, shaping industry leaders and informing government over the past 15 years.

John Evans, principal and chief executive at the Cornwall College Group, said: “Richard has helped generations of farmers and land managers.

"This is an incredibly fond, albeit sad farewell to an absolute titan of the sector. It is testament to how well he is thought of that he was handpicked to lead a team at AHDB.”

Mr Soffe has a wealth of achievements to his name, including creating multi-million pound professional development and knowledge transfer programmes for Defra. Recently he helped drive the pioneering research and education facility, Future Farm at Duchy College, which launches later this year.

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When Mr Soffe joined the college in 2005 he realised the significance of connecting educators and the wider industry.

Mr Soffe said: “We knew that we could do something incredibly important in terms of helping with knowledge exchange and upskilling across SW England.

“This led to the formation of the RBS, with the intent of providing a step change in knowledge transfer among farmers.”

The RBS now works with five other universities across the country to produce the annual Farm Business Survey, providing independent evidence and insight into the financial state of farming, informing farming unions, government and the Bank of England.

South West Farmer:

Richard Soffe

“It is these relationships with other organisations that I am perhaps most proud of, whether that be Exeter University, Rothamsted Research or Cornwall Council”, continued Mr Soffe.

“This has helped us achieve more than £30m of commercial contracts.”

While the rural sector faces short-term challenges like Covid-19 and Brexit, Mr Soffe believes those businesses that succeed will be the ones who focus on good management across the board, particularly financial performance.

“Duchy College has a very bright future: RBS is pivotal in helping land-based businesses, and I am sure that many more farmers will join the more than 18,000 who have been involved with one of our courses in the past ten years”, he added.