New RUAS boss to turn Balmoral into ‘hub of international excellence’

It might have just completed the biggest change in its 150-year history in moving showgrounds and adding an extra day to its schedule, but the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) is not taking its foot off the pedal any time soon.

Balmoral’s new chief executive is rearing to go; despite being just weeks into his new role Alan Crowe has made it clear he means business.

‘Massive opportunities’

Speaking to AgriLand in his first sit-down interview, Crowe said the show’s new site had “huge potential” and added that he would ensure the four-day show becomes a pinnacle of the farming world internationally.

“From this particular site we see massive opportunities to grow exponentially – in terms of jobs and the economy,” he said.

The fact is that we attracted over 115,000 visitors last year with the present arterial routes; so this should continue to grow and grow from there – who knows where it is going.

“I think it’s important that people don’t just treat the society as a four-day show. I’ve been here for almost three months and can say whole-heartedly that the show is a 365-day-a-year operation. The team here works very hard to make everything happen year-round.

‘International hub’

“We are still very much in our infancy at the site here but once we get past that the show will be very heavily looking to target and build on a programme of growth.”

Crowe explained that Southern visitors were another string in the show’s bow in terms of growing its footfall.

“When you’re an hour from Dublin it all blends in and becomes part of our growth. This has, in my eyes, the making of an international hub of agricultural excellence,” he said.

‘Blinkered thinking’

However, despite the success of the National Ploughing Association’s annual show and the Royal Highland Show, Crowe said he was “not looking to replicate others”.

“I’m looking to make our own model here and then we can let that be the model of best practice – that’s the way I have to see it,” he said.

“I’m not limiting my vision in any way at all. Any organisation I’ve joined, I’ve looked at it and tried to remove blinkered thinking of its current usage and what it will do in the future.

When I joined my previous agency in 2003 I think we had a balance sheet of just under £190 million (€217.6 million) but when I left [14 years later] we had a balance sheet of £816 million (€934.4 million).

“Now if I blinker my vision or limit where I think I can take things you get what you sow – so I’m not coming in with anything more than a blank sheet, a listening ear and a willingness to take action.”

Dr. E F Logan Hall

Progress is well underway on the new £3 million (€3.44 million) covered exhibition space – the Dr. E F Logan Hall – which visitors can find overlooking the cattle lawns.

The final touches are expected to be finished by the third week of April – almost exactly one month before it is set to house the beef and dairy cattle at the society’s flagship show.

“You’re effectively talking in layman’s terms as having two full soccer pitches in each,” Crowe said.

“The original usage of this will be for livestock but they can be multipurpose as well because there are no pillars in it so it is a wide space, slightly different from the Eikon.

“But we are not limiting ourselves; once the show is over I and the full team here will be looking to target every customer segment that we can look at.

“I’m not aware of any other facility that has two massive spaces like this within around 50ft of each other with car-parking available and an hour from Dublin – it has been a fantastic decision.”