‘Dragons’ Den of farming’ returns to Kingsclere Estate

Regenerative farmer Tim May is offering land, investment and mentoring to forward-thinking, sustainable businesses as part of his ambition to build a circular community at Kingsclere Estate in Hampshire.

Dubbed the “Dragons’ Den of farming”, the initiative invites farmers, producers and enterprises to pitch for a spot on the 1,000ha estate and have access to its resources – from fields, pasture and woodland to industrial units, offices and roadside retail space.

See also: Regenerative farmer seeks businesses to form sustainable community

Now in its second year, the Pitch Up competition aims to help create a circular, sustainable system on the estate, whereby multiple businesses can benefit from each other’s raw ingredients, waste or by-products.

A mobile dairy and a mobile egg-laying unit are among the enterprises on the estate putting this approach into action.

Mr May is managing director of Kingsclere, located between Newbury and Basingstoke in north-west Hampshire.

He said: “We were blown away by the interest in, and breadth of entries for, our first-ever Pitch Up last year.

“Entries spanning everything from a cheesemaker to a shoe brand, turkeys to natural soaps – the possibilities and appetite for innovative, sustainable mixed land use in our circular community are really exciting.

“In the end, 2021’s winning entry really surprised us, as it was something we’d never even considered – which is the great thing about this competition.

“Now the word is spreading even further, we can’t wait to see what this year’s Pitch Up brings.”

Applications for Pitch Up open on 1 November. This year’s application process has been simplified to make it more accessible to people and start-ups at different stages of their business journey.

Nikki Amor, Kingsclere development manager, said: “It’s really important to us that Pitch Up offers space for innovation and experimentation.

“We’re very happy working with people in the early and proof-of-concept stages of their business, as well as those further down the line.

“Seeing the progress Daisy and Dan have made in the last few months – as well as their creative ideas and marketing savvy – makes us really excited about the next generation of land-based businesses.”

Previous winners

Last year’s Pitch Up winners, Daisy Sharp and Dan Davies, were chosen for their sustainable pet food brand, Monch.

For Monch’s first rabbit food range, Ms Sharp, who has a background in horticulture, photography and looking after rescue rabbits, forages ingredients such as chicory, dandelions, plantain, wildflowers, willow and hazel that grow on Kingsclere’s organic land.

The crops are then dried and packed on site into plastic-free boxes.

Picking leaves and stems from the hedgerows and herbal leys, planted at Kingsclere as part of its long-term organic farming and soil regeneration focus, encourages more growth, supporting biodiversity and eliminating waste from pruning activity already happening on the farm.

Ms Sharp said: “We saw it as a new way of working, as partners working together in a circular way, instead of the traditional employer-employee or landlord-tenant hierarchy.

“The guidance and support from Tim and the Kingsclere team has been invaluable, giving us help and advice, freedom and time to explore.”