The first of our Fertile Minds regional roadshows took place on 17 November at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.

The initiative, by Farmers Weekly in association with NFU Mutual, is aimed at helping young people get a foothold in agriculture.

This roadshow focused on building relationships with supermarkets and farming business planning.

Listen to the podcast of Matthew Naylor and Jonathan Brunyee on starting a farming business as a young person and read the event report below.

Supplying supermarkets

Matthew Naylor, farmer and Farmers Weekly columnist, spoke to delegates about supplying supermarkets.

Working with retailers can be a real challenge but the right approach can offer huge opportunity too, he told the delegates.

What is Fertile Minds?

  • An initiative to help young farmers and those hoping to get into the sector
  • Provides inspirational business advice – its main event is an annual conference
  • This year Farmers Weekly, in association with NFU Mutual, is taking Fertile Minds on tour
  • At five regional events for small groups of business-minded new entrants, those attending choose the topics, allowing them access to expert advice on the topics they most want to know about
  • The first roadshow was in Coventry last week
  • To register your interest in attending a future Fertile Minds Roadshow, email James Williams at james.williams@rbi.co.uk

Mr Naylor supplies Waitrose, Aldi and others with flowers from his family business, Naylor Flowers, based in Lincolnshire.

Armed with groceries from Waitrose, Mr Naylor told delegates it was tough to get into supermarkets.

“There are only seven or so supermarkets but they are all quite different,” he said.

For example, while the Waitrose he visited had 170 preserves alone on sale, Aldi probably only stocks about 10,000 products in total.

See also: Video highlights from Fertile Minds 2016

Yet there are opportunities as supermarkets are transparent.

“You can see exactly what supermarkets are doing because everything is out in front of you,” he said, adding that once a fortnight he visited a supermarket to really examine what was on the shelves.

He recommends looking for niches, offering something that no one else is providing.

“The mistake I used to make is I would see a new product and think ‘I could do that’, but what you need to do is something that nobody’s doing.”

Mr Naylor recommends approaching supermarket suppliers and asking them if there is interest in an idea or product, or whether it has been tried before.

See also: The Fertile Minds event page

Business planning

A realistic business plan is an essential part of preparation, said Jonathan Brunyee, senior lecturer in farm business management at the Royal Agricultural University.

The executive summary is the most crucial element of a business plan, said Mr Brunyee who is also a National Trust farm tenant and director of Pasture for Life, which promotes grass-fed meat production.

Bank managers may have 50 plans in front of them and yours must jump out, he said.

The summary should make it clear what your business is, who you are, what your market is, your financials, who your competitors are and why you are better.

Mr Brunyee also advises including a section in the business plan on how sensitive a venture is to change.

“You might give me a price per unit but you are making assumptions.

“What happens if the price per kilo dropped by 10%? What happens if diesel goes up 30p/litre?”

However business plans are not just for funders, they help to clarify your business or idea, he said.

  • Thanks to NFU Mutual whose sponsorship made it possible to run the Fertile Minds roadshows. Farmers Weekly had full editorial control of this report.

Sponsor message

NFU Mutual's logo“This event gave these young farmers the opportunity to learn from experts about the topics they wanted to know about, providing them with practical insights on how to create successful business plans and work with supermarkets.

“NFU Mutual is proud to be supporting them as they start their careers.”