Small Business Innovation Drives Growth

The Scottish Agricultural Awards provide the perfect opportunity to help Scotland's small, vibrant, businesses grow.

Scotland’s agrifood sector has many small vibrant, often family, businesses that sustain communities and innovate to drive that all-important economic growth.  This innovation and enterprise creation strengthens industry resilience and helps to ensure these businesses grow and develop to support the next generation. 

In March 2023 there was an inaugural Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) Scotland conference. Sometimes in the mainstream farming sectors we forget the importance of the rare breed story.

Take the shorthorn breed of cattle as an example. Within the last generation of farming the shorthorn breed was on the at-risk list. The industry was breeding and keeping big, continental cattle who needed to be finished on grain, the Charolais types, it was a drive to efficiency and productivity, which still has its significant place in our industry, and those short hardy native type breeds fell out of favour to the extent that some of these, became rare. Now we understand the importance that a breed like the shorthorn can play in turning the grazing on marginal land and in particular the upland areas into nutrient dense food. They are the ultimate low input animal, being hardy enough to live outside year-round, and so are cost effective to keep. They also have the neat side effect of being able to open up upland grazing for nature by the action of their hoofprints, and their dung, to improve the soils on those rough grazing pastures.

The onward processing of these native breeds and adding value to their meat to sell direct to the consumer can support many microenterprises in small farming businesses to connect consumers with the heritage and story of those animals, their farming scenarios, and can help to demonstrate the role that livestock play in helping reverse our nature crisis and in improving our soils.

Improved and resilient soils in marginal land areas have much to offer in terms of public goods, in the form of resilience to flooding, water management, and enriching below ground biodiversity within soils, which in turn supports the development of above ground biodiversity, and the maintenance and restoration of habitats for wildlife.

They also provide a significant contribution to the genetic pool of animals that we need to have so we can draw upon their traits for inclusion in breeding programmes in the future as we adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. Animals that have hardy characteristics and can live on marginal land types will contribute both to climate and economic resilience in rural and will have a significant role to play in Scotland’s agricultural future.

Capturing the value in a business that either operates entirely or somewhat out with the mainstream farming sectors can be a route to providing additional income streams and diversifying your business.

For growth to be sustainable in these farming enterprises it’s important to stop along the way and reflect on the journey so far, to measure key performance indicators, maximise market opportunities and to celebrate success.  When you’re working ‘in’ a business day-in-day-out it’s easy to miss opportunities to work ‘on’ that business, to take the opportunity to tell the world about your business.    

Awards provide the perfect opportunity to reflect on your business, raise your business profile, gather feedback to help shape future developments – essentially, they help you to grow your business.

Be clear that the award you’re entering is the right one for you and then enter with a set of clear objectives – what do you want from these awards (apart from winning).  Awards help to build your business profile – at the very least with the judges, but if you’re shortlisted, or go on to win, then the associated PR will raise awareness of your on-farm enterprise.  Awards endorse enterprise quality. They get you publicity in your sector and set you apart from your competitors. The prestige of having an ‘award-winning enterprise’ builds both your own and your target customers’ confidence.  Make the most of the opportunity to have independent experts review your enterprise and give you feedback.

Taking time to summarise your enterprise on an application form is a great opportunity to stop and reflect, to look at your business from a customers’ point of view. Consider your processes, your market and your messaging.  Awards demonstrate your commitment to innovation, to being the best, and to giving your customers the absolute best experience.

The Diversified Farm of The Year Award offers the ideal opportunity. Apply to the Scottish Agriculture Awards and you could be that award winning business.


By Sascha Grierson and Ceri Ritchie, Food & Enterprise consultants at SAC Consulting

Posted by Sascha Grierson and Ceri Ritchie on 03/08/2023

Tags: Agriculture, Awards, Diversification, Food and Drink, SAC Consulting
Categories: Consulting and Commercial | Natural Economy