A stint working in London’s money markets has clearly had a lasting impact on 34-year-old Adrian Ivory.

The expansion and market focus of the farming businesses are certainly in line with a City high flier a 15% return on operating assets and “a farm rate of return exceeding those of the average supermarket”.

He achieved a 40% return on sales of £870,000 last year. This is a man who quite happily talks about “return on employee”.

Strathisla Farms is an operating partnership for the various farms owned by the Ivory family. In addition, Adrian runs arable contracting operations on 600ha (1483 acres) for two neighbours on a stubble-to-stubble contract, which gives him the scale he needs to keep operating costs down.

When Adrian returned to the farm, he worked under a farm manager for five years until he retired. The business then was 240ha (593 acres) with 120 cattle it’s now 1000ha (2471 acres) with three times the number of pedigree and commercial Simmental and Charolais cows. Along with pedigree sales he sells finished cattle on a deadweight contract to ABP for Sainsbury’s. Meanwhile, on the arable side second wheats have been dropped from the rotation and he now focuses only on first wheats, potatoes, peas and grassland.

The pedigree cattle side, in which he has notched up first prizes at the Royal Highland and Royal Show, is his “shop window”, explains Adrian. He has invested in the genetics to deliver top pedigree cows, but for the commercial side is using breed performance figures to shorten calving patterns and produce more consistent batches of cattle for marketing.

And to improve welfare he has invested in a bespoke cattle handling system designed on the principles of a leading American animal welfare expert. Ease of handling and minimal stress has more than paid for the new curved race system, says Adrian.

Adrian endorses the objectives of the European Water and Soils Directives, supports the LEAF audit to help deliver environmental and wildlife conservation and is also exploring ways to reduce the farms’ carbon footprint.

The business is focused on being globally competitive so subsidies are factored out of the arable and beef production costs. Diversification is limited to activities which do not require considerable time or investment and capitalise on the natural beauty of the Scottish landscape. Surplus farm cottages have been converted and now generate 12% of the farm’s income.

Adrian is proactive in forging links industry wide – and across the whole food chain – from breed societies to processors and retailers. He played a hand in organising the 2008 Beef Expo in Scotland, works alongside processors ABP and is the youngest person to sit on Sainsbury’s steering group.

He was also the first McDonald’s “Scout with a Clout” farmers – giving him a unique insight into the whole burger chain from production to processing and into the restaurant.

Visitors are always welcome to Strathisla Farms – from farmers to children, processors to retailers. He is happy to share his business ideas with others. It’s little wonder that SAC has picked him for its leadership programme. At such a young age you cannot help but feel that his profile and influence in the industry are just beginning.

Judges remarks

Adrian is a rising star. He’s a highly professional young businessman taking an impressive commercial approach to his enterprise.”

Sir Don Curry

By focusing on improving the farms’ profitability in such an effective way he is creating a sustainable business for future generations.”

John Geldard

Adrian is innovative and market focused, realising that connecting with the whole food chain is the way to drive his business forward.”

Richard MacDonald

Adrian is an inspiration for all young farmers. He has a simple business approach that balances the demands of farm and family life very well. He sets himself tough targets and he is completely focused on achieving them.”

Jane King

His 34 years belie the canny business head and farming vision, on this Scotsman’s shoulders.”

Debbie Beaton

Farm facts: STRATHISLA FARMS, MEIGLE, PERTHSHIRE

  • 537ha (1327 acres) of wheat, potatoes, peas
  • 189ha (467 acres) of grassland
  • 230 Simmental and Charolais cows
  • Five staff

WHAT MAKES HIM A WINNER

  • Business and market focused
  • Close links with supply chain
  • Building a sustainable business for the next generation
  • Industry leadership
  • Willing to share his vision