Diversification with a difference

By Dawn Mercer | 28.11.23

Exploring product innovation and diversification at The Farm Business Innovation Show where we joined a panel looking at ‘diversification with a difference’.

The Farm Business Innovation Show has become somewhat of an annual November pilgrimage for many of those responsible for owning and managing rural assets. This year I headed to the show with our Head of Consulting, Sally Ormiston, and enjoyed the opportunity to explore recent product innovation and diversification ideas.

We had the pleasure of joining a panel looking at ‘diversification with a difference’ - sharing ideas on a whole raft of possibilities when it comes to diversifying land-based businesses. Our mission was to explore where alternative opportunities lie and how best to identify and pursue those. With an ever-growing list of options from wild swimming to green burial, pick your own wildflowers, to workspace, storage, renewable energy, wildlife experiences, seasonal events and more - understanding what will work where you are, both in location and site development terms can feel like a daunting task.

Chaired by Sally, the panellists shared their experiences across a range of offers. Hannah James from British Dog Fields discussed the rapid growth of dog exercise fields. It was clear that to create a quality product and a successful business there is more to this than just sturdy fencing and Hannah demonstrated how it is possible to successfully transform land into a sought-after destination for dog owners.

Whilst the show covered many of the usual diversification themes, it showcased practical solutions for landowners looking to expand their already diversified landholding. Glamping remained a strong theme, with the products available at the show suggesting that operators are really upping the ante in terms of quality and sophistication. Panel member Alistair Fell of Iron and Pine is one such manufacturer providing high-quality, luxury modular buildings through the imaginative reuse of shipping containers which as well as holiday accommodation can be used as everything from beauty treatment rooms to offices, studios and more.

Kelly Chandler shared her experience to encourage delegates to consider the wedding industry as an opportunity to extract revenue from country homes and land assets without having to open the doors daily to high-footfall ventures. Kelly’s secret to making resilient wedding businesses? Focus on the experiences - be they landscapes creating unforgettable backdrops, or opportunities to extend the celebrations using accommodation and activities to allow wedding parties to make a weekend of it.

I took the opportunity to remind our audience of the need to do their homework before embarking on a diversification project. With an ever-growing list of options, those who research their market to test the potential of their idea, have a well-informed vision and set of clear objectives, and ensure they understand the requirements in planning, design and regulatory terms from the off are the most likely to build resilient enterprises for the next iteration of their land-based business.

For advice on how best to diversify your estate with a difference, contact Sally and myself at info@ruralsolutions.co.uk or phone 01756 797501.

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