BERKSHIRE in south east England is a long way from Old Junee in southern NSW, but the UK farming county contributes many factors important to the success of the cropping program on Rob Hart's family enterprise.
The NSW farmer is one of 10 winners from last year's Syngenta Growth Awards about to meet with scientists and researchers and observe the work at one of the world's most influential agricultural chemical and plant research facilities at Jealott's Hill in West Berkshire.
The site, which employs almost 800 scientists and support staff, has initiated many of agriculture's major plant research achievements, developing some of the industry's best known crop protection chemicals, including the widely-used, fast-acting and non-selective herbicide Paraquat.
Jealott's Hill, also a 300-hectare working farm with beef and dairy herds, is home to the biggest glasshouse research complex in Europe, a $17.6 million development covering 4000 square metres.
The group of Australian and New Zealand farmers and agronomists will also travel to Switzerland to meet Syngenta researchers at the company's state-of-the-art crop protection centre at Stein.
The site's facilities include custom-designed buildings, greenhouses, growth chambers and laboratories where, like Jealott's Hill, simulated climatic conditions representative of just about anywhere on Earth, including Australia, are used to test and refine new insecticides, herbicides and professional products.
As one of the world's biggest agribusinesses, Syngenta's portfolio ranges from crop protection chemicals to cereal and oilseed varieties and a host of horticulture crops, notably several leading tomato varieties.
"I can't wait to have a look at what they're up to," said Mr Hart, who is managing director of the 51-year-old family business Hart Brothers Seeds runs with Alison Hart, Mr Hart's wife, and parents Bernard and Anne, alongside a continuous mixed cropping enterprise on their property, "Waerawi".
"Being involved in growing and supplying seed to all States around Australia, I'm interested how Syngenta's crop chemistry research and development systems work.
"Who knows what we'll see?
"I'm always fascinated about what's being achieved with new genetics research, especially if it can give us better drought and frost tolerance.
"The scale involved in discovering and producing products used on Australian farms every season will certainly be worth seeing first-hand."
Apart from research facilities, this month's week-long tour includes a meeting with UK farmers in Cambridge to discuss in cereal production and meetings with business leaders at Syngenta's Basel head office in Switzerland.
"Simply comparing notes with the people we meet and other Growth Awards winners on the tour will be very worthwhile - there's some quality company involved," said Mr Hart, a third-generation farmer, and one of three "judges choice" finalists selected last December alongside the state (and NZ) winners.
Syngenta's Brisbane-based customer marketing manager Tony Carr agreed the farmers and agronomists announced as winners were quality performers, chosen because of their commitment to productivity, sustainability and work to develop regional and rural communities.
"This tour means we can share exclusive insights into the work Syngenta does globally to help them further succeed in these categories locally," he said.
"It's one thing to use a product on-farm in Australia, but seeing the innovation and scale required to bring products through to market is eye-opening."
"Jeallot's Hill, for example, is Syngenta's largest site for new agrochemical research and is home to many products Australian growers use every day, like Gramoxone and Amistar."
Key research at the site included work on new active chemical ingredients and new formulation technologies to develop products from existing active ingredients.
The West Berkshire farm, which has supported agriculture since before Tudor times and still has farm buildings built in the 16th century, supports centres of excellence for analytical science, protein science and bioscience which fostered Syngenta's worldwide research and development activities.
Finalists nominees for the 2015 Syngenta Growth Awards will be announced in October, with the initial nominations whittled down to a group of about 25 for the final judging.