A NEW collaboration with the Balcaskie Estate in Fife aims to expand the Pitch Up! initative developed by Tim May from the Kingsclere Estate in Hampshire to boost regenerative farming enterprises
The new collaboration between two large farming estates in England and Scotland aims to grow the positive impact that regenerative farming, sustainable enterprise stacking, diversification and circular systems can have across the UK. The scheme places the emphasis on collaboration, providing innovative ways for small businesses to access land in a way that would not otherwise have been possible without renting or buying land.
Pitch Up! – which has been dubbed “the Dragon’s Den of farming” – invites sustainable businesses and start-ups to pitch their plans on how they’d use the land/ space. Those that are successful are given access to fertile land, business expertise, retail opportunities and investment. Above all, Pitch Up! is an opportunity to be part of a likeminded community that grows together.
Presented by Kingsclere Estates in Hampshire and, new for 2023, Balcaskie Estate in Fife, the Pitch Up! team is also calling for other farms and estates across the British Isles to join in 2024.
Tim May, managing director of Kingsclere Estates, who started the Pitch Up! scheme in 2021, said, “Many farmers and estate managers are keen to get more businesses onto their land in a financially and environmentally sustainable way, but don’t always know where to start – or have the time and capacity to do it themselves. If we can all share knowledge, experience and resources instead of duplicating work or making the same mistakes, it’s better for everyone – and we can grow the impact and opportunities much faster. There’s an increasing focus at government level on collaboration between farms – this is a collaboration that can have multiple benefits for both rural economies and the environment they depend on.”
Pitch Up! connects holistically-managed estates and regenerative farmers with sustainable food producers and other like-minded rural enterprises. Working together in circular communities, they share land, raw materials, retail or production space, by-products, ideas, knowledge, contacts, equipment, costs and whatever’s needed to help good ideas grow into successful businesses.
Within the circular community model, one business’s waste, for example whey from cheesemaking is a valuable, cost-effective input for its neighbour, perhaps low impact, protein-rich pig feed. In a mixed farming system, there are endless possibilities for interconnecting in this way – cutting out waste and improving profitability at the same time.
Pitch Up! is inspired by Kingsclere managing director Tim May’s vision of building a circular community on his family’s 2,500+ acre organic mixed estate. Now in its third year, Tim and the founding Pitch Up! team are excited to welcome Balcaskie onboard in 2023 as part of a pilot for wider national rollout in 2024.
Balcaskie already has its own successful approach to enterprise stacking – especially through its Bowhouse food and drink business hub, market and events space – but wanted to find better ways to invite new partners onto the wider estate and farming enterprises, too.
Sam Parsons, estate manager at Balcaskie, said, “We were looking to grow alternatives to the outdated model of landowner–tenant relationships, and were really impressed by what Tim and his team have created with Pitch Up! There’s a general assumption that you have to rent or buy a piece of land to be able to run a land-based business, but Pitch Up! shows how this is not true. By collaborating on this year’s Pitch Up! application season this autumn, we’re excited to find and support a new generation of successful, sustainable rural businesses.”
Daisy Sharp and Dan Davies, Monch founders and winners of Pitch Up! 2021, said, “Pitch Up! is perfect for people who have an idea, but need help to make it happen. The Kingsclere team has really helped bring Monch to life, and it’s grown bigger, better and faster than we ever thought.”
The 2023 Pitch Up! applications season runs from 1–30 November. See pitchupandgrow.co.uk for more information on who it’s for, what’s on offer and how to apply.
Examples of enterprises ‘stacked’ on the Kingsclere and Balcaskie estates include:
- A collaborative farming, milling and bakery project to grow better grain and bake better bread with the common purposes of nourishment, sustainability and food sovereignty
- A mobile milking parlour and pasture-fed chickens producing the best organic milk and eggs, highest animal welfare standards, and improving soil fertility and biodiversity in the process
- A field-to-plate pub and restaurant serving ingredients from the estate and the agroecological market gardeners based there, that’s “transformative” (The Times)
- A foraged sustainable pet food brand that encourages growth of the herbal leys and hedgerows supporting organic oat, quinoa and barley production and boosting biodiversity in successive reports
Pitch Up! is open to all businesses and ideas at every stage of development and the team is happy to work with people at early/proof-of-concept stage, or those further along their business journey. Application Guidance for Pitch Up! 2023 is online now – go to pitchupandgrow.co.uk to download. Through Pitch Up!, Kingsclere and Balcaskie both offer:
- Land – from small areas to larger rotational parcels
- Fertility – healthy soils and resilient, rotational pastures
- Production, storage and office space
- Roadside and/ or ‘destination’ retail opportunities
- Economies of scale and infrastructure, access to machinery
- Business mentoring
- Low overheads, reduced risk and shared running costs
- Help with accounting, administration and marketing
- Access to industry knowledge and contacts from the landowners and the wider circular communities