An obituary to Robin Malim

We were all saddened by the sudden death of Robin Malim on 3rd October 2013.  Robin's contribution to Velcourt and the wider agricultural industry was immeasurable.  His obituary helps define just what a remarkable man he was.  He will be very much missed by us all.

James Townshend

Robin Malim, who has died aged 80, was an inspiration to many and a visionary who helped shape British agriculture in the second half of the twentieth century.

In the mid-sixties Robin co-founded Velcourt, now one of Europe’s leading farming companies, as a vehicle for farming the co-founders’ land on a collaborative basis. The early success of this venture naturally led to the management by Velcourt of other landowners’ farms on a commercial basis.  The company became known for its distinctive approach, delivering enhanced performance through the adoption of production techniques that increased arable yields and resulted in significantly improved investment returns.

Velcourt operated on the basis that effective commercial farming should be distanced from actual ownership of the land.  As the technical skills required to raise agricultural productivity became more demanding, many landowners turned to specialist providers, of which Velcourt became pre-eminent under the leadership of Robin Malim.  

As the “Green” revolution of the 1970s, driven by genetic improvement, increased yields to levels not thought possible a few decades earlier, Robin and his colleagues searched the world for the best crop growing practices.  They tailored them to the needs of British agriculture, on larger arable farms run by a team of professional managers. 

When the commodity boom attracted institutional investors into the sector, Velcourt was on hand to deliver the service and return on investment they required.  As demands on the industry changed in the 1990s and early 21st Century, Velcourt remained focused on technical excellence, and is now playing a key role in UK agriculture’s current revival.

Robin Malim helped shape modern commercial agriculture by establishing Velcourt’s dedicated research and development department and management training programme, both of which remain highly regarded within the industry. Robin’s legacy is evident in Velcourt’s position today as a major force in British and European agriculture.

Robin’s energy and enthusiasm rarely wavered and he had a tremendous gift for motivating and challenging all who were fortunate enough to meet him. He was particularly inspiring to young people entering the industry that he loved, and he influenced many working in agriculture today – not just in the UK.

For many years Robin was a Governor of the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, and he created a scholarship at Harper Adams University for undergraduates interested in arable or dairy farming.  Robin was a founding member of the 75 Club, a network of forward-thinking commercial farmers, and he was also chairman of Farm Africa in the 1990s. In recognition of his many achievements, Robin was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies in 1993.

Robin Malim was born in Victoria, British Columbia on December 1, 1932, and moved with his family to the New Forest at the age of three. When a few years later his parents bought a small farm in Holsworthy, Devon, Robin’s lifelong passion for agriculture was ignited.

Educated at All Hallows Prep School (Lyme Regis, Dorset) and Shebbear College (Beaworthy, Devon), Robin worked on the family farm for several years.  After national service, where he was commissioned as a Royal Air Force jet pilot, Robin enrolled at Seal Hayne Agricultural College, where he developed his commitment to excellence in agriculture.  He was President of the Students Union and played rugby for the college.

In 1958 he married fellow student Carol Summers and they bought a 200 acre mixed farm on the edge of Dartmoor.  In 1971 they moved to Herefordshire, to a farm close to Velcourt’s head office in Much Marcle.

As a highly skilled pilot, Robin flew regularly until his early 70s and was a respected member of the Flying Farmers Association.  He had a wide range of interests, including music, golf, travel, rural politics and the countryside. A devoted father, in his later years he took great pleasure in spending as much time as possible with his grandchildren.

Robin is survived by his wife, Carol, their three children, Karen, Peter and Sophie and seven grandchildren.