Date published: 25 Jul 2019
Dragon’s Den winner Levi Roots has been made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) for his contributions to entrepreneurship and food. Chartered surveyor Julian Sayers received the same honour in recognition of his long career advising farmers and land-owners on rural property. Both addressed students graduating from the RAU in Cirencester.
Levi famously secured investment from Peter Jones and Richard Farleigh on the BBC 2 show with his Reggae Reggae Sauce, after opening his pitch with a song.
He went on to create a global brand including sauces and seasonings, ready meals, books, soft drinks and snacks as well as his music.
The entrepreneur has been advising and mentoring in schools, colleges and universities for many years, including a decade-long association with the RAU. He is a regular judge on the University’s Grand Idea competition for young entrepreneurs alongside other leading business figures such as Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of Superdry.
He also attends prisons giving motivational talks and speaks about his own experiences. Levi recently signed a deal to have a multi-million-pound feature film made about the story of his life.
Levi said of the award: “It’s been an incredible journey from arriving in the UK as a boy who couldn’t spell his first name, to becoming an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Agricultural University.
“The RAU has entrepreneurship in its DNA, and I’ve been inspired and privileged to watch that characteristic bloom in its students over the years. Some of the most exciting ideas I’ve seen recently have come in disciplines like agri-tech and food security, areas where so many of today’s graduates will go on to benefit society.
“Helping all young people develop their business ideas and grow in confidence, knowing that the deal is out there for them, is really important to me. My message has always been that if I can do it, anyone can. Think about your personal brand and what makes you unique – everyone has that ‘something’ inside them, wherever they come from.”
Julian Sayers graduated from what was then the Royal Agricultural College (RAC) in 1982. He has maintained close links with the University, sitting on a number of its Boards, acting as Chair of the Real Estate and Land Management (RELM) Advisory Council and serving as a Governor for nine years.
He has held senior positions at a number of the land-based sector’s major organisations including chairing the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Rural Faculty, the Oxford Farming Conference and the Famers Club. Last year he served as Master of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, and is the long-serving chair of the Defra Tenancy Reform Industry Group.
He told students: “I am hugely honoured to receive my Fellowship from the Royal Agricultural University which means a great deal to me as I have been involved with this unique academic institution for the past 40 years.
“My working life has been all about the people I deal with day-to-day, against a backdrop of rural property in its many guises. Strong working relationships are one of the keys to success along with life-long learning, establishing contacts for support and guidance and taking opportunities that come your way. Upon leaving the RAU the world is your oyster and the University and its strong alumni network are there to support you.”
The Honorary Fellows joined around 460 students graduating in subjects including Agriculture, Food, Environment, Real Estate and Rural Land Management, Equine Studies and Science, and Business.
Professor Joanna Price, Vice-Chancellor of the RAU said: “Levi Roots and Julian Sayers are visionary leaders whose contributions to society and duty of service go hand in hand with their professional successes. They are inspirational role models for our students and we are delighted to welcome them to our community of Honorary Fellows.
“The substantial accomplishments of RAU graduates never cease to amaze me. Their global outlook, ability to adapt to change and ‘can do’ attitude mean they make an impact on society and the communities they serve in a myriad of ways. We wish them all the very best in their future careers.”