A £360k investment programme has helped Cupar-based Downfield Farm launch its own product range, secure orders from Italy, and move into new areas.
The farm and abattoir, which is operated by Robert and Jane Prentice, has processed over 143 tonnes of venison since opening its new butchery and game handling facilities in autumn last year.
The expansion of Scotland’s first venison abattoir allowed the husband and wife team to launch Stagison, Scottish Venison, in March. Its products are now supplied to restaurants and hotels via Braehead Foods and directly to consumers from Minick of St Andrews.
After receiving support from Business Gateway, the company is now gearing up to process its second season of wild deer that will see over 70 tonnes of wild Scottish venison destined for the shelves of Sainsbury supermarkets and two tonnes shipped to Italy. Jane estimates that increasing demand for the company’s services and products will see turnover increase to over £200k by March.
She said: “The new cutting room and packing facility has improved both traceability and the speed at which animals can be taken from field to fork and that has resulted in more people wanting to use our services. Although venison will always be our main focus, we believe there is enough demand to start processing goat as more and more people become interested in trying the meat.
“Launching our own label and securing the deal with Braehead Foods has helped us promote Scottish venison as a healthy meat that can be consumed throughout the year, not just during the autumn and winter months. Our next aim is to further expand our market share down south and look at the potential to increase our exports following the interest from Italy.”
She added: “Because the business has grown a lot quicker than we initially expected, the help we have had from Business Gateway Fife has been lifesaving. I’m an accountant to trade, and when you work in a big office you have access to a wide range of support and knowledge. When you run your own business you don’t. That’s where Business Gateway has made a huge difference, as our adviser has the knowledge and connections we need to help us continue to move the business forward.”
Charles Doeg-Smith, adviser, Business Gateway Fife, said: “Robert and Jane have always had a vision of supporting other farmers to create breeding centres that would provide a regular supply of deer which would then be slaughtered and processed at their plant. The recent investment has helped them get closer to that goal. With our help we have connected them to Scottish Enterprise and provided specialist support that has given them access to funding for training, business development, branding, as well as professional help to obtain BRC accreditation. They have also attended workshops on employee pensions and we are now looking at ways to support their exporting ambitions.”