According to Defra’s Farm Business Survey, two-thirds of farm businesses within England have already diversified, generating a total income of £620 million.

In Wales recent statistics highlight that 38% of farmers have diversified their farm business and in Scotland the overall average income from diversified activities was last recorded at £4,900.

With diversification such a hot topic at the moment we thought we’d highlight some of the opportunities and trends that farmers could take advantage of, whether looking for a new project or wanting to add value to an existing diversification.

See also: The want versus need for farm diversification

What’s hot?

  1. Experience days

Experience days are all about individuals encountering or undergoing something a little different from the norm, whether in a group or as an individual.

With a growing population of thrill seekers and those wanting to ‘out-do’ their peers alongside those who are to seeking more time for themselves and professionals who are looking for new ways to network, there is an increasing opportunity for businesses to consider how they could take advantage of this expanding industry and the many different audiences this could appeal to.

Traditionally, Virgin Experience Days and Red Letter Days have been the ‘go to’ organisations people have referred to when wanting to purchase memorable gifts or to organise special events, but who’s to say you couldn’t create your own on-farm experience days or weekends?

Examples of experience days:

  • Wine tasting and food pairing
  • A weekend ‘living off the land’ Bear Grylls style
  • 4 X 4 driving experience
  • Foraging days and farmhouse cooking
  • A day in the life of a farmer
  • Butchery and charcuterie days

  1. Pets

As a nation of pet lovers there is no getting away from the fact that we love to splash out on our pets. In 2017 consumer expenditure on pets rose to £4.6 billion, a level of expenditure that does not look set to fall any time soon.

See also: Business start-up guide - Dog walker

Over 13 million households within the UK own a pet for which the most popular pets are dogs, closely followed by cats. With this comes opportunities for those looking for new business ideas.

Business ideas include:

  • Animal food
  • Animal bedding
  • Kennels with pet grooming facilities
  • Dog agility
  • Dog training
  • Pet sitting

If you offer accommodation, it’s also worth considering if you can make this pet friendly. People now want to holiday with their pets and not allowing their ‘furry friends’ to come along may mean you are losing out on potential customers.

  1. Glamping and camping

‘When is the glamping boom going to come to an end?’ This is the question that is not far from anyone’s mind. But the enquiries keep coming in and the demand is there whether that’s from families, groups or couples wanting to experience glamping.

The important factor when considering setting up a glamping site is making sure you have a point of difference that allows you to stand out from the crowd.

See also: Business start-up guide - Campsite

This could be:

  • Having children specific activity days
  • Having quirky accommodation and decorations
  • Allowing group bookings
  • Having access to facilities such as hot tubs, saunas, swimming pools
  • Themed evenings
  1. Breweries and distilleries

The UK craft beer industry is booming. There are now over 2,000 microbreweries within the UK many of whom have made use of the reduced beer duty rates associated with the small breweries’ relief scheme.

Equally, the UK’s love affair with gin shows no sign of drying up either with 315 distilleries now operating across the UK all taking advantage of the craze for craft varieties.

See also: Business start-up guide - Microbrewery

The downside is that the drinks market is now a very crowed industry to enter from a producer point of view. If you are thinking about getting into this industry, your marketing needs to be ‘on the money’ and it helps to have a strong USP.

However, in both instances the opportunity is in the production of raw materials. Whether it's hops or quirky flavourings for aromatic gins these ingredients need to be grown somewhere and could provide an opportunity to grow alternative crops not previously thought of.

  1. Online businesses

There is no getting away from the fact that the digital world and technology now plays an important role in our everyday lives, and rather than running away from it, embracing it could be a cause for celebration and offer a new way of doing business.

Gone are the days of relying solely on traditional business structures, there is now huge scope to take advantage of modern business models.

Who is to say that you can’t take your existing business model online? For example, a florist could you take their knowledge and expertise online by offering training courses and webinars. An owner of a children’s nursery could package-up what they have learnt on their business journey and sell this online via downloadable e-books for others to learn from.

It’s about time we stepped into the 21st Century and made use of the technology available to us which could help reach a significantly wider audience than traditional business models would allow.

Is it for me?

Although there may be a level of pressure to find the next best business idea and to go down the route of diversification, your first point of call should be to ask yourself if it’s the right route for you. Read more on this here.

As a starter for ten analyse your core farming business and see if there are small changes you could make here that could amount to incremental differences.

If you decide diversification is the right route for you, have you done your research and does it stack-up financially? There is the risk that diving straight into ‘quick-win’ diversifications may not necessarily be the right long-term decision for you and the business.

References: Defra Farm Business Survey 2016/17, Welsh Government Farm Incomes Survey Scottish Government, PFMA, British Hop Association, Big hospitality

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