Webster Vienna Alumnus Changing Face of Agriculture, Winning Awards Along the Way

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András Szunyogh award recipient

WVPU alumnus and awardee András (Andrew) Szunyogh with István Nagy, Minister of Agriculture of Hungary. Photo by Zsolt Lévai

Last month, Webster Vienna alumnus András (Andrew) Szunyogh won the Grand Prize of Agriculture award at the largest and oldest agricultural event in Hungary.

Szunyogh is the owner of the DEDES project, an agro-ecology program implemented on his family’s estate in Zala County, Hungary. He studied Finance at Webster Vienna, which has helped him with running his project, and he knows that sustainable agricultural habits are good for business.

WVPU spoke to Szunyogh and asked him to share a little bit about himself and his interests.

AS: I'm from Budapest, Hungary. In addition to my Master of Science in Finance from Webster Vienna, I also hold a Masters in Management and Leadership from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

I have always had a wide range of interests, and after graduating from university I became increasingly concerned with the challenges of climate change, with a focus on biodiversity loss, soil protection and forms of water conservation. Alongside a number of leading American and Australian regenerative agriculture programs, I had the opportunity to test regenerative best practices on my family property.

WVPU: How did you decide to move to Vienna to study in Palais Wenkheim?

AS: I have always been attracted by the culture of the "imperial city," so after completing my bachelor's degree I travelled to Vienna to get to know the universities and the master's courses they offer. Here it became obvious to me that I would like to continue my studies at Webster Vienna, because after visiting competitive public universities, I felt that a more friendly, student-centered and small group-oriented university like WVPU would offer more opportunities to learn about myself, develop my skills and improve my creative thinking.

WVPU: Tell us about the DEDES Project.

AS: The DEDES project focuses on the redesign of the estate, using earthworks or efficient land management to improve rainwater retention and mitigate the adverse effects of extreme weather patterns. A holistic grazing management approach is applied, with a strong focus on improving biodiversity, providing adequate pasture rotation and protecting nature conservation values.

Grazing animals are selected primarily on the basis of performance to ensure that the herd is best adapted to local conditions. Where needed, dam and agroforestry systems are applied to improve land functions. The aim of these experiments is to create a local model where agricultural, conservation and regeneration considerations meet.

WVPU: We heard some exciting news about your career. Tell us about your recent honor.

AS: I recently received the Young Agricultural Professional of the Year 2023 Agriculture Grand Prize in Hungary. This award is presented to young agricultural professionals who are open to sustainability and innovation, and who actively seek and apply innovative practices to protect the environment, circular economy, chemical reduction and biodiversity conservation. My project is characterized by an innovative "out of box thinking" and "safe to fail" mentality. I owe this ability in part to Webster Vienna. The award was presented at the OMÉK Conference, Hungary’s National Agriculture and Food Exhibition and Fair.

WVPU: What did you learn most at Webster Vienna?

AS: Throughout my years in Vienna, my business mindset had become more creative and open. Small group sessions and case studies enriched my practical knowledge, while lectures by guest speakers and graduates were inspiring. As a college student, I had the privilege to meet many students from all over the world and from different cultures, some of whom I still maintain contact with to this day.

I was inspired by many successful entrepreneurial mindsets from the Webster community, and this was an encouragement when I had to make a career decision. After all, it was the complexity of nature that gave me the challenge to prove myself both on the field and intellectually.

Rector Johannes Pollack's speech at my 2018 commencement ceremony was very memorable for me. After all these years, his words of advice really stuck with me. He advised us that graduation should not be an end, rather really, a first step, because we need to keep on learning. In our fast-paced and ever-changing world, there is an increasing emphasis on the importance of holistic thinking, adaptation and reflection. University education should be complemented by best practice courses from the leading experts in the sector. We must continue to use our skills, be critical and remain curious.

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