18 May 2023
This event is presented by Rural Policy Group in partnership with accountancy, tax and business advisory firm MHA MacIntyre Hudson, part of Baker Tilley International. MHA has a nationwide sector team dedicated to Agriculture, Food, Farming and Rural Business.
We investigate the role of green finance in helping farms and other food businesses to achieve their goals. From asset finance and other forms of lending to alternative investors. We also explore the grant funding and farm payments to help rural businesses achieve their climate change goals and reduce costs, and speakers share their thoughts on what the Spring Budget Announcement means for farming and food production.
Ben Lake MP
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Ben Lake is a native of Lampeter, Ceredigion. Ben was educated at Ysgol Ffynnonbedr and Ysgol Gyfun Llanbedr Pont Stefffan and graduated from Trinity College, Oxford with an undergraduate degree in History and Politics, and a master’s degree in Modern British and European History. Before being elected in 2017 he worked as a research assistant for Elin Jones at the Senedd. At the age of 24 he was the youngest MP to be elected in 2017 and the youngest ever MP to be elected to represent Plaid Cymru. He is also the youngest Welsh MP. In December 2017, Lake was awarded the ‘Politician to Watch’ prize as part of the ITV Welsh Politician of the Year Awards 2017. In August 2019, Lake was nominated for the MP of the Year Award, acknowledging MPs who actively work with under-represented and disadvantaged communities across the UK. He is Plaid Cymru spokesperson at Westminster for the Economy, Environment, Food, Rural Affairs, Education, Skills, Health, Communities, Local Government, Culture, Media, Sport and Constitutional Affairs. Appointed a member of the Welsh Affairs Committee in September 2017 and is currently the Vice-Chair.
Co-Founder, Bankers for Net Zero
Charlene is a Chartered Sustainable Investment and Finance who has worked across UK and EU sustainable finance for close to a decade.
Before joining Volans, Charlene worked with the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association and Eurosif engaging the industry on sustainable market trends, campaigns, EU and UK policy and best practice. She also directed a national campaign for retail audiences ‘Good Money Week from 2016 to 2020.
In her spare time, Charlene runs an educational project Economy of Good where she simplifies ethical finance for members of the public while advocating for climate action, women’s wealth, the power of pensions and seeing more sustainable options for our finances. She also helps to assess Good With Money’s Good Egg Mark and has recently started working on a film documenting the finance industry transition to ‘net zero’.
Head of Green Finance, MHA
Hiten Sonpal is an experienced asset financier and sector specialist, having amassed over 23 years industry knowledge within the banking and asset finance sector. Hiten’s vision and passion for the environment enabled him to redirect his career into green finance and, for the past 12 years, spearhead the growth of renewable lending, whilst consolidating his expertise in renewables, clean energy and zero emission mobility projects. As a result of his innovative approach, dedication and contribution to the sector Hiten was named winner of the Sustainability executive of the year in 2015 and was highly commended for the transport project of the year in 2020 at the business green awards. As Head of Green Finance Hiten enhances MHA’s green finance offering by providing tailored lending and advisory services to enable businesses to achieve their climate change goals and reduce costs through renewable energy initiatives.
Prof. Louise Manning
Professor of Sustainable Agri Food Systems, Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology
Professor Louise Manning has worked for over 35 years in the agri-food supply chain in a range of roles. Her expertise is in the area of food security and food integrity including food safety, food quality, food crime, policy and governance, social and corporate responsibility, resilience, risk assessment and mitigation strategies. Louise has carried out projects for government bodies and companies throughout Europe and Africa. This work includes strategic risk analysis and mitigation for both corporate organisations and public bodies. She has been published in peer-reviewed journals, authored book chapters and written and edited books in the subject area. Louise’s research work also involves undertaking desktop reviews; qualitative and quantitative fieldwork including focus groups, workshops and in-depth interviews, questionnaire design and analysis, strategic framework, communication systems and model design and developing tools to drive risk communication and engagement of stakeholders at all levels of the supply chain.
CEO, City Farm Systems Ltd
Jonathan’s early life was in rural Devon with food so local milk probably travelled further in the cow than the bottle. A varied career started with a degree in Design Technology and moved on to resource efficiency. Travelling home one night he found himself stuck behind a supermarket truck within sight of its destination. He soon realised the store’s empty shelves meant lost sales while fresh produce spent its shelf life in the truck that achieved nothing more than increased congestion and pollution. These experiences sparked the thinking behind City Farm Systems. There Jonathan created the IP and patents that enable an automated greenhouse to be installed on a non-loadbearing surface such as the low pitched roof of a modern building. With data acquisition built in from the start Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning enable a far better match between supply and demand and can avoid distribution costs for crops that often cost more to deliver than to grow. The result is a cost and carbon reducing solution that goes beyond Net Zero solution.
Jonathan has contributed to an academic book about using AI in Agriculture and a section about Feeding a Smart City for Springer’s Handbook of Smart Cities. He is now in demand internationally as a keynote speaker and remains bewildered by the number of investors happy to lose their cash in vertical farms.
Mark Lumsdon-Taylor ACA MSc
Partner, MHA MacIntyre Hudson
Mark is a Chartered Accountant and corporate financier with special interests in food & farming, rural business, ESG and a belief that business must be underpinned by sustainable finance. He established Rural Policy Group in 2019 following 16 years in the rural economy working with both public and private sector businesses. Mark has won numerous awards for his work including Finance Director of the Year 2007, Accounting for Sustainability 2012 (ICEAW), National Business Finance Director 2014 (Finance Director) and the Institute of Directors Blue Ribbon award for Governance and Finance Excellence in 2018.
Mark is a member of the ICAEW Farming and Rural Business Committee and a CBI Southeast Councillor.
Sarah Calcutt NSc
CEO, City Harvest
Sarah is the new CEO of leading London Food Charity, City Harvest. City Harvest exists to save people, food and planet by redistributing surplus food, otherwise destined to landfill, to over 370 charities working with London’s hungry.
Sarah’s background: Initially training to be a buyer, she has grown and marketed crops, led funding applications, worked on regional and national strategy, developed business plans and helped facilitate restructures, delivered audit management, successful retailer partnerships, and has extensive experience presenting key issues to the media (tv and radio).
In addition to her role at City Harvest, she is also a Non Exec Director of The Covent Garden Market Authority, a Government appointment, part of the regeneration of London’s premier wholesale market. 2023 will see her 13th year as the Chair of the National Fruit Show, she is also a founding Non-Exec Director of Outfield Technologies.
Sarah is the vice-chair of the Rural Policy Group, a rural and food sector debating forum hosting numerous online and in person debates about the policy and economic needs of the UK’s rural business community.