Business

Farmers Weekly Diversification Farmer of the Year 2013: Robert Newborough

Thursday 03 October 2013 23:20

Robert Newborough
Rhug Organic Farms


Sweating the assets at Rhug Organic Farms by using the strengths of the estate to build different and successful business models has been key to its success.

Farm facts
  • 1,457ha organic farming enterprise
  • Fully certified by the Soil Association
  • All livestock bred and finished on farm
WINNING Ways
  • Decisive and visionary leader
  • Every farm asset 'sweated'
  • Tackled difficult markets and succeeded
  • Long-term investment in renewable energy

Robert says making use of every resource, both big and small, has helped to boost trade and reduce costs at Rhug.

Since inheriting the farm from his father, he became Lord Newborough and turned the business from a low-input, low-output conventional farm into a 1,457ha thriving, fully organic farming enterprise.

Now the estate employs 85 people - 98% local - with an expected turnover of £5.5m this year.

The diversification began in 2002 with a roadside takeaway selling organic meat burgers produced on the farm to people passing on the A5 in Wales.

Robert says this created a "grab-and-go" food culture "like Mumbai", which attracted everyone from lorry drivers and bikers to tourists and passers-by on their way to shoots.

This side of the business grew so much he decided to invest in a new farm shop - which offers more than 2,000 products, many local or organic - incorporating a bistro restaurant and takeaway in 2011.

The farm produces organic beef, wild bison, lamb, salt marsh lamb, chicken, pork and turkey and geese for the Christmas market. All stock is bred and finished on farm and goes to a family-run abattoir two miles away.

Last year, he invested in a state-of-the-art meat cutting and processing plant that has a team of nine butchers. Orders can be taken daily and meat is prepared, packed and dispatched the same day.

"He has built an amazing and complex estate business based around skilled and balanced organic farming. He has skilfully marketed the highest-quality food locally, nationally and internationally. Wind, water and ground heat are all being harnessed successfully for power."

Alan Spedding
Rural consultant

Diversification of farm produce has been based on cutting out the middleman and moving away from reliance on supermarkets.

The estate supplies Waitrose and Sainsbury's, but also some of the best restaurants and hotels in London, Hong Kong, the Middle East, Macau and Singapore.

A wholesale quality meat business covers the country, with a weekly delivery service to London and the North West and couriers for nationwide mail orders. Customers include delis, baby food makers, airlines and train companies.

But the wholesale business is not just about meat - Rhug even sells bark off the trees and hay to restaurants overseas to use for presentation purposes, demonstrating how every asset is "sweated".

A stall in London's Borough Market selling the farm's organic meat has increased the profile of the Rhug brand, with turnover reaching £150,000 a year.

Other ventures include green waste composting, caravan storage in redundant buildings and summer events in sheds used for lambing in the winter.

Farm tours, car boot sales, shooting, fishing, cross-country running, rally car driving and riding events add value to the estate land, while attracting visitors from home and abroad.

Further diversification started in 2011 into renewables, including solar, geothermal, wind, ground-source and hydro schemes.

Sponsor's message

MSD Animal Health"Lord Newborough is an exceptional visionary leader in 
his field. In such a skilled, diverse and innovative business, his 
ability to effectively delegate shone through."


Barry Coleman
Firestone


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