AFTER the Government made some progress in the Brexit negotiations, entrepreneurs working in a niche meat market says ministers must ensure that trade links with Europe are not jeopardised when the UK ‘s divorce from the EU is finalised.

Names:

Jane and Robert Prentice.

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Ages:

Late 40s.

What are your businesses called?

Downfield Farm and Stagison.

Where are they based?

Cupar.

What do they produce, what services do they offer?

We farm Scottish reared deer on our 440 acre farm. We are also Scotland’s first purpose built venison abattoir with newly added butcher and game handling facilities for farmed and wild deer, sheep, and shortly goats.

To whom do they sell?

Hotels and restaurants via Braehead Foods and to Sainsbury’s as well as directly to consumers from Minick of St Andrews. We also export to Italy.

Turnover?

£145,000, which we estimate will increase to £200,000 in the current year.

How many employees?

Three full-time and up to three seasonal staff during the wild venison season, rom September until February.

Why did you take the plunge?

We originally operated a mixed farming business that included beef, sheep, and arable production but due to herd health issues and declining income we started investigating more sustainable sources of income and looked at ways to diversify to future proof the farm. This lead us to start deer farming five years ago. Very quickly we spotted a gap in the market to establish Scotland’s first purpose built venison abattoir so that deer didn’t have to travel over five hours to be slaughtered in Yorkshire.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

We both come from traditional farming families but I went into accountancy until 2008 when we started a family. Robert has always been a farmer, his grandfather ran an abattoir, and his two uncles were butchers, so right from the start of launching the abattoir we understood how important animal welfare was.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

The first stage which involved creating the abattoir was undertaken with financial support from Royal Bank of Scotland. We were then able to add the new butchery and game handling facilities last autumn thanks to financial support from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

What was your biggest break?

Securing the second round of funding to add the cutting room and packing facility was a huge boost. The £360,000 investment not only helped us improve both traceability and the speed at which animals can be taken from field to fork, it has helped us create jobs and 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.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The challenge of doing something new. Every day on the farm is different. There are new opportunities opening up all the time which are exciting for all involved.

What do you least enjoy?

When I was an accountant I worked in a big office and had access to a wide range of support and knowledge almost instantly. When you run your own business you don’t have that access which can be very daunting. Because the business has grown a lot quicker than we initially expected, the help we have had from Business Gateway Fife has been invaluable. Our adviser has connected us to Scottish Enterprise and provided specialist support that has given us access to funding for training, business development, branding, as well as professional help to obtain accreditation. I’ve also attended their free workshops on employee pensions.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

The UK is importing most of the venison it consumes from New Zealand. Wild venison makes up the bulk of Scottish deer eaten but the wild population is controlled and won’t be allowed to grow to the size needed to meet increasing consumer demand. Our vision is to support other farmers in Scotland to create breeding centres that would provide a regular supply of deer which would then be slaughtered and processed at our plant.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

There are many European countries that are very important importers of venison products and it is essential they remain open to trade with us after Brexit. If there are additional costs or we need to follow special procedures and obtain health certificates as if they were new International customers it will be detrimental to the industry.

How do you relax?

Going walking with the family on the farm or elsewhere in the countryside.