A friendly team that merges business knowledge, innovative thinking and agricultural experience.

Chris Dunkley

Director of Business Development and Marketing at Royal Agricultural University

Chris looks after key commercial activities across the university including Farm491. He joined the RAU from Rothamsted, the oldest agricultural research institute in the World where, as Enterprise Director, he oversaw significant capital investment into the campus.  Prior to joining Rothamsted, he was Head of NPD and Marketing at Ipsos Retail Performance and the founding director of The Sparc Technology Network and Bright Sparc Awards for Technology Led businesses while he himself has a background in business incubation. Married with three teenage children, Chris lives in rural Northamptonshire listing his hobbies as very average guitar playing, cycling and the great outdoors.

Ali Hadavizadeh

Programme Manager
Ali’s career spans a range of agri sectors including research, commercial and social enterprises. His career began at John Innes Research Institute as Higher Scientific Officer and then moved to Brinkman Horticultural Services. The journey continued at Saphire Produce as Crop Specialist charged with developing an all year-round fresh legume production and availability schedule for UK supermarkets.  He then ran his own nut processing business for 16 years and recently worked as Deputy Head of Enterprise and Innovation Centre at University of Bath managing the SETSquared Bath Business Incubation unit.

Verity Payne

Centre & Events Manager
Verity joins Farm491 with a wealth of experience. Verity completed a business management course at the RAU some years ago and subsequently worked at Savills. With a wealth of experience in customer service and an appreciation of the agricultural landscape she will be a real asset to Farm491. As Centre and Events Manager Verity will be responsible for management of the Farm491 buildings and facilities as well as representing us at shows and events. A very proactive person with excellent organisational and communication skills.

Luke Halsey

AgriTech Commercialisation Associate

Luke has a range of experiences working with environmental and social impact orientated start-ups, helping them develop their business models and raise investment.  Luke has worked in California on Mission Investing portfolios that fill market gaps by seeking out and investing in innovative solutions to problems in the field of climate change  and human rights. He has been involved in all parts of the portfolio including investment diligence, deal execution, monitoring, as well as portfolio analytics. This has included The Schmidt Family Foundation and Alpha Impact Investment Management Partners. Previously Luke was at Social Finance, UK, where he worked on a number of successful Impact Bonds, the development and fundraising for a care & wellbeing fund and an affordable property fund. Luke holds a BA and Masters in Mathematics from Oxford University.


Professor Joanna Price

Vice-Chancellor of the RAU
Professor Joanna Price took over as Vice-Chancellor of the RAU in September 2016. Previously Professor Price was Head of Bristol University Veterinary School and Head of the School of Clinical Veterinary Sciences. Prior to this Professor Price had worked at the Royal Veterinary College, University College London, the University of Sheffield and the University of Bristol. Professor Price qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Bristol University in 1983 and spent a number of years in clinical practice in the UK and overseas before entering research and academia.

Denys C. Shortt OBE

Chairman of the Farm491 Advisory Board
Denys is a former international hockey player and runs several businesses. His company DCS Group has sales of over £200 million per annum and employs 320 people. He also owns Enable Software – a company with 50 employees and £3 million sales. Denys has won many awards including – Entrepreneur of the Year, Fasttrack100, Techtrack 100, Toptrack 250. Denys was awarded an OBE in 2013 for his pro-bono work as Chairman of the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership. Denys runs a 160 acre farm breeding pedigree belted Galloway. His latest venture is a honey farm with 70 acres dedicated to flowers for his 2 million bees.

Lord Bathurst

The Right Honourable Allen Bathurst, formerly Lord Apsley, on the passing of his father 16th October 2011 became the 9th Earl Bathurst. The Earl lives with his wife the Countess Sara, Lady Bathurst, at Cirencester Park, the Bathurst family seat. As an ambassador of agriculture, Lord Bathurst’s influence is extensive. Undoubtedly his largest commitment is to the efficient running of the large and well organized Bathurst Estate, covering some 15,000 acres of supreme countryside. Earl Bathurst is Director of the Cirencester Housing Society and a governor of the family connected Royal Agricultural University. He is Director of the annual Cotswold Country Fair, past President of the Three Counties Agricultural Society and is President of the Gloucestershire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, FWAG. His involvement with the National Farmers Union has had far reaching effect. As a conservationist, Earl Bathurst has campaigned to preserve the rural countryside and various historic buildings. He has done much to encourage sensitive farming methods and has gained awards for his approaches to the improvement and sanctuary of wildlife.

David Owen

David is Chief Executive of GFirst LEP, one of the most successful Local Enterprise Partnerships in the UK. He is also currently a non-executive director of the Responsible Finance Provider South West Investment Group (SWIG), and training and business development company Gloucestershire Enterprise Ltd. David is a member of the International Advisory Committee of the International Economic Development Council. He is also a previous President of the Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and former Chairman of the South West UK Business Advisory Group. David has a BA Hons in Business Studies and a MA in Leading Change.

Oli Christie DL

Oli Christie is the founder and CEO of UK mobile games studio Neon Play. The studio was founded in 2010 in Cirencester and has achieved over 60 million mobile game downloads. The company was sold in 2016 to Hachette UK, the second biggest book publisher in the country. Previously, Oli spent 11 years as the creative director of digital marketing agencies working with over 250 global brands. He is the founder of Rock the Cotswolds, a not-for- profit enterprise that champions a different side to the area, to help attract staff, businesses and visitors to the Cotswolds. Oli has won over 20 business awards including the Queen’s Awards for Innovation. He was on the board at the Cheltenham Festivals for three years and is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Gloucestershire and a Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire.

Matt Charman

Head of Growth Marketing EMEA; Google Cloud