Category Archives: Agriculture

Wonderwool Wales 2024 targeting 6,000 visitors for this weekend’s show

Wonderwool Wales, the award-winning show that celebrates all that’s great about Welsh wool and natural fibres, is on target go achieve 6,000 visitors this coming weekend.


The event, which is being held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells on Saturday and Sunday, April 27 and 28, exceeded 4,000 online ticket sales at last week and the organisers expect more to be sold in the coming days, as well as at the gate.


Overseas visitors will be travelling from as far away to Australia, America and Canada, including a party of 18 booked with Rowan Tree Travel.


Tickets cost £12 per day or £22 for the weekend and young people aged under 16 years get in free.


“Online ticket sales are ahead of where they normally are and we could well have 6,000 visitors this year, “ said Wonderwool Wales director Chrissie Menzies. “We are delighted that the event is becoming ever more popular because it costs around £120,000 to stage and any surplus is reinvested.”


The show will have around 220 exhibitors, including around 40 newcomers this year. Some of the new exhibitors are Gary Jones Ceramics from Leintwardine, Phoenix Pottery from Conwy, the Museum of Welsh Textiles, Knighton and the Indian Block Print Company from Bicester.


Another newcomer is Glamorgan Smallholders’ Great Glamorgan Sock Project, which involves members making a pair of socks from each sheep breed in the county.


Certain to attract a lot of interest will be ‘Flock2Flight’, an engaging display of felted birds which measures 10 metres by three metres. It’s the creation of fibre artist Janna Turner and two friends, Alex Johnstone and Deborah Taylor Dyer.


Both Shepton Mallet based Janna, who runs Flocks2Felts, and Alex are no strangers to Wonderwool Wales. Janna was project lead and felting advisor to a special, eight-metre long exhibition entitled Alice in Wonderwool in 2022.


This year, Janna is featuring colourful birds in the display, some of which include wooden mechanics to make them fly. For example, there’s a small flock of swallows that fly in circles, a zipwire bird, a diving kingfisher, bird marionettes and hand puppets.


“When we did the Alice in Wonderwool display in 2022, people were not allowed to touch the exhibits,” said Janna. “This time, I will be encouraging people to engage with the birds and have a play as they walk around. I just love seeing their reactions. There are also hand puppets for people to take selfies with.”


Money raised by the display will be donated to the Wales Air Ambulance and Ukrainian charity NGO Molotok, Wonderwool Wales’ adopted charities.


This year’s event will see nine Woolschool afternoon workshops each day, with only a limited number of spaces left. The Woolschools, which give visitors the chance to learn or perfect their skills with help from an expert, can be booked online at the Wonderwool Wales website.


Another popular feature, the Sheep Walk fashion show, will keep the audience entertained on both days.


This year, all visitors are being encouraged to knit, crochet or make and wear their own beanie or hat to add colour to the event. Stewards will be awarding vouchers to the best hats on both days.


Wonderwool Wales 2023 Bursary winners Jade Carey Holt, from Aberystwyth and Kay-lee Davies, from Capel Dewi, near Llandysul, will be exhibiting their work on stand C1.

To tantalise the tastebuds, new street food caterers join the popular regulars to provide a wider menu for show visitors.


Wonderwool Wales was first held in 2006 to promote the market for Welsh wool and to add value to products made by small wool and fibre producers in Wales.

The show celebrates the green credentials of Welsh wool and its versatility as a material for creative crafts, designer clothes, home furnishings and more.

Wonderwool Wales covers everything from the start to the end of the creative process. Exhibits of sheep, raw and hand dyed fibres, yarn for knitting and crochet, embellishments, equipment, dyes and books can be found alongside superb examples of finished textile art, craft, clothing and home furnishings.

Find out more about the 2024 show at , like Wonderwool Wales Ltd on Facebook or follow on Twitter @wonderwoolwales

HMRC updates Guidance on Double Cab Pick-Ups, Confirming They Will Continue to be Treated as Commercial Vehicles

Last month, HMRC updated its guidance on the tax treatment of Double Cab Pick Ups (DCPUs), following a 2020 Court of Appeal judgment.

The guidance had initially confirmed that, from 1 July 2024, DCPUs with a payload of one tonne or more would be treated as cars rather than goods vehicles for both capital allowances and benefit-in-kind purposes, however this guidance has now been changed, in a decision that has been welcomed by motoring and agriculture leaders.

HMRC said in a statement:

“The government has listened carefully to views from farmers and the motoring industry on the potential impacts of the change in tax-treatment. The government has acknowledged that the 2020 court decision and resultant guidance update could have an impact on businesses and individuals in a way that is not consistent with the government’s wider aims to support businesses, including vital motoring and farming industries.

“HMRC have today announced that its existing guidance will be withdrawn, meaning that DCPUs will continue to be treated as goods vehicles rather than cars, and businesses and individuals can continue to benefit from its historic tax treatment.

“This move is resultant of the government making clear that it will be legislating to ensure that DCPU vehicles continue to be treated as goods vehicles for tax purposes.

“The government will consult on the draft legislation to ensure that it achieves that outcome before introducing it in the next available Finance Bill.

Nigel Huddleston, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“We will change the law at the next available Finance Bill in order to avoid tax outcomes that could inadvertently harm farmers, van drivers and the UK’s economy.”

Further information

  • The tax on the benefit-in-kind will now not increase when employers provide these vehicles to their employees; and the capital allowances available in the first year of use will now not be reduced when a business purchases this vehicle for use in their trade.
  • This will ensure a continued generous and consistent treatment of DCPUs for capital allowances, benefit in kind, and VAT purposes, maintaining simplicity in the tax system.
  • HMRC will withdraw its updated guidance during the afternoon of Monday 19 February 2024.
  • The Court of Appeal ruled that most multi-purpose vehicles, such as DCPUs, are cars in Payne & Ors (Coca-Cola) v R & C Commrs (2020) (BTC19).
  • Arrangements that HMRC announced on 12 February 2024 to help DCPU owners adapt to the updated guidance are now redundant because the tax-treatment is not changing.
  • This update is only with reference to DCPUs with a payload of one tonne or more. DCPUs with a payload of less than one tonne continue to be treated as cars.

Commercial Vehicle Expert Oliver Lewis, Director, Hawkstone Commercials welcomed the news, saying:

“I am delighted to hear that double cabs with a payload of more than one tonne will continue to be classed as commercial vehicles – because they are commercial vehicles.  This is a much welcome common sense decision.  We have more than 60 brand new double cabs available for fast delivery and our team will be happy to arrange the best vehicle to meet your needs.”


Heifer sells for £3,200 at Shrewsbury Auction Centre Dairy Show and Sale

A heifer with a great pedigree grabbed the headlines after selling for £3,200 at Shrewsbury Auction Centre’s Dairy Show and Sale yesterday (Tuesday).


The classy heifer, Whitgreave Haniko Zindra, from Stubbs Partners, Whitgreave, Stafford, which was backed by 10 generations in the top two grades, tracing back to the great Ocean-view Mandel Zandra EX95 and giving 36kg of milk, sold to R. A. Jones and Son, Pied House, Garthmyl, near Welshpool.


Halls auctioneer Jonny Dymond, Shrewsbury Auction Centre manager, said: “This well-bred heifer, a daughter of Haniko, was very correct and full of milk. Her looks matched her pedigree and the buyers clearly agreed.


“It was the best dairy price recorded at Shrewsbury for 18 months since the downturn in milk price.


“It’s evident that the Shrewsbury Auction Centre’s reputation for selling top quality dairy cattle is spreading far and wide. We are now attracting cattle from a huge geographical region including Carmarthenshire, Derbyshire, Ceredigion and Leicestershire yesterday, with others from Warwickshire, Gloucester and Lincolnshire in recent weeks.”


The market’s pulling power was demonstrated by dairy show champion Deri Enid 455, a Seagull-Bay Jo Dancer heifer giving 31.3kg from D. R. Evans, Dryslwyn, Carmarthen, which sold for £2,600.


Mr Evans sold four heifers, including the much admired Deri Pet 82, sired by Seagull- Bay MJ Applejax and giving 34kg, which all sold for £2,250. The quartet, which averaged £2,187, sold to the show judge, Rachel Owen, from Overton.


Shropshire supporters J Allsop & Sons from Leebotwood, Church Stretton, saw Enchmarsh Totem Ethel 2, a Totem sired daughter giving 30kg, sell for £2,380, while Hillstar Lighthouse Rebecca Raquel, a freshly calved heifer giving 36kg, with 10 generations in the top two grades, sold for £2,250.

New vendor G. W. Watkin, from Borth, sold an impressive group of 12 fresh heifers which topped at £2,150 for Henllys Kimball May 2, having calved two weeks ago. The group averaged £1,763.


The show’s second placed heifer was Deri Lofty 263 from D R. Evans which sold for £1,950 and third was Gwynnog Sedona Joanne from M. J. E. Hughes from Criggion which made £1,980.


The quality of the nine cows on show was underlined as more than half sold for £1,900 or more. The show’s reserve champion was Redlong Supershot Mauvoreen from A. C. & D. Drinkall, Wettenhall, which topped the cow trade at £2,350.


Close behind was a pair of cows with height and width in their rear udders from Neil Morgan and family from Arddleen, near Welshpool. Trederwen Imagine Pam, a three year old second calver giving 48kg, made £2,280 and Trederwen Uno Elsa, sired by Amigetti Numero Uno and giving 45kg, sold for £2,150.


The continuing dispersal of R. T. Albert saw a strong Montbeliarde cow making £1,550.


The 48 heifers on offer averaged £1,776 while the nine cows averaged £1,863.


Next Tuesday’s sale entries include a dispersal of a genuine group of Montbeliarde, Montbeliarde cross and Holstein cows from  E. R. & I. Dodd & Son from Crowton, Northwich this. The vaccinated, cubicle housed cows average 7,300kg with 4.50% fat, 3.60% protein.

Dynamic Partnership in place to Empower Ghanaian Farmers and Enhance Agricultural Traceability

UK-based Phlo Systems and Ghana-based Farmerline, both industry pioneers committed to revolutionising the agricultural landscape, proudly announce a new partnership today (14 December, 2023) that aims to transform the agricultural sector in Ghana and enhance traceability within the supply chain.

Farmerline, established in 2013, has been at the forefront of empowering farmers across Ghana. With operations initially reaching 800 farmers and a vision to revolutionise the entire sector, Farmerline has already left a significant mark. Through its own platform, it has reached 1.7M farmers by deploying its tools and services through 3,000+ strategic partners across 48 countries.

Phlo Systems, a leading provider of international supply chain management solutions, delivering innovative digital solutions for end-to-end physical goods and commodities supply chain operations, joins forces with Farmerline to amplify the impact of its collective efforts.

This partnership will enable the company to extend its reach to more originators and farmers across Africa, LatAm and South Asia, providing essential guidance and support to ensure compliance with EU DR standards and enhancing monitoring, traceability with the use of intelligence tools.

Alloysius Attah, Co-Founder and Group CEO at Farmerline, said, “Our goal has always been to catalyse lasting profits for farmers and bring about a positive impact in the agricultural sector. We began in 2013 with a vision to revolutionise the industry, and today, we’re empowering over 1.7 million farmers globally.

“Our partnership with Phlo Systems is a significant step towards achieving our vision and ensuring full traceability of commodities right back to the farmers.”

Saurabh Goyal, CEO of Phlo Systems, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Farmerline, an organisation that shares our dedication to transforming the agricultural sector. Together, we will leverage our expertise and resources to provide farmers, originators, traders and operators with the necessary tools and knowledge to comply with EU DR standards and achieve sustainable growth. The ability to trace commodities back to the farmers is a crucial step towards ensuring transparency and accountability within the supply chain.”

This partnership signifies a significant milestone in the efforts to empower farmers, enhance agricultural traceability, and ultimately drive sustainable growth and development in the agricultural sector. By combining strengths and expertise, Phlo Systems and Farmerline are set to create a lasting impact on the lives of farmers in Ghana and beyond.

Diribona Announced as Winners of Entrepreneurs Award in Social Innovation (EASI) 2023

“This grant and award win overall has unlocked so many doors for us. It’s given us credibility and allowed us to raise our brand awareness and present our ethos and what we want to do to a wider audience.” Beenish Luqman, DiRibona.  

 A START-UP which specialises in sustainable farming practices has landed a prestigious award for new businesses.  

 DiRibona, which aims to “bring soil health back to life”, won over judges at the Entrepreneurs Award in Social Innovation (EASI) 2023, an award created by The Company of Entrepreneurs.  

 In a glittering event held at the Tower Suites Rooftop Bar in London, DiRibona was named the winner of the 2023 Award.  

 In a special presentation event at Drapers Hall in London in January, the team from DiRibona will showcase the business as winners of EASI 2023 to one of the country’s most sought-after networks of business contacts. 


Speaking to Champions (UK) plc (one of the Award’s supporters), Dr Beenish Luqman, founder of DiRibona, said: “Even to be chosen as a finalist was a fantastic achievement for us, but it was even more special to be announced as winners.” 


Explaining the world-class business support they received for their win, Dr Luqman continued: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support we’ve received. We’ve been put in touch with a high-level list of business contacts, who are able to assist us across the spectrum of challenges that come with running an innovative business. They even helped us with aspects we didn’t know they would, like helping us get into a co-working space in London, which is often difficult to find in the city.” 

“The £10,000 grant was immensely beneficial to us and was a huge confidence boost. It’s the first real external funding for us and we’re being extremely careful of how we use it. This funding also helped us kickstart our process to apply for more funding.  

“This grant and award win overall has unlocked so many doors for us. It’s given us credibility and allowed us to raise our brand awareness and present our ethos and what we want to do to others. The overall value that EASI has added to us is massive. The whole process has been very beneficial and made us think in ways we never would have. Of course, the £10,000 grant and the package of support has been excellent, but the real win for us was being connected to a world-class network of entrepreneurs and business mentors.” 


DiRibona will receive the award on the 17th of January at a special EASI 2023 Showcase event at the legendary Drapers’ Hall in London. To find out more about The Company of Entrepreneurs, visit the website by clicking here.  


Recruiting for specialist roles in agritech

Written by Matt Johnson, agritech recruitment specialist, Jonathan Lee Recruitment

Like many industries where improving sustainability is concerned, agriculture is undergoing a huge transformation. Technology and innovation are revolutionising the agricultural landscape like never before, developing new ways to feed an increasing population while tackling the impacts of climate change.

The sector is growing rapidly, supported by millions of pounds in investment from the Government, including grant opportunities which are driving innovation and growth on an unprecedented scale.

It has led to the creation of a range of exciting new career paths outside of the more traditional agricultural roles which have dominated the industry for many years.

Agritech relies on more specialist and technical expertise across areas such as AI and automation, precision farming, smart irrigation, design, software and data science.

As is often the case with a new and fast-growing industry though, the challenge is finding appropriately skilled staff in the numbers needed. There are not enough new graduates or trainees coming through the education system to fill all the roles, and it can be difficult to know where to target recruitment campaigns when jobs are particularly specialist or nuanced.

This is where partnering with specialist agritech recruiters can make all the difference. When an industry is relatively new, or roles are niche, recruitment has to be a lot more strategic if it is to succeed in finding the right people and attracting them to your business.

As experts in the engineering, manufacturing and technical sectors for over four decades, agritech was a natural progression for us. We opened a new office in Telford’s Agri-EPI Centre so we could be closer to the flourishing agritech enterprises who need our help in solving their recruitment challenges.

Our specialist technical expertise is enabling us to support agritech businesses in finding new hires across automation and controls, electrification and fuel cell development, electronics and embedded, research and development, design, software, data science and more.

Maximising your chances of recruitment success

Adopting a more strategic approach to recruitment can help maximise your chances of success, especially when demand is high but skilled workers are in short supply.

Tailored recruitment strategies

Attracting top talent starts with taking the time to understand your company ethos, mission and values and building this into your recruitment strategy. It means effectively communicating your business as a good place to work and taking the time to identify, plan and prepare for your recruitment needs.

Researching the market

Before you start recruiting, it’s important to research your sector and identify where the skills you need might be found. This could be another industry where skills are similar and transferrable, or a particular location, where certain technologies are clustered – we all know, for example, that Shropshire is a real hub for agritech innovation.

Going beyond skills and qualifications

Recruiting based on desired values and behaviours, rather than specific qualifications, and being prepared to add any training needed, can help you find candidates who share your passion. Recruiting on competencies opens up the potential to attract a much wider variety of candidates with the right attributes.

Standing out from the competition

Maximising your chances of success also means ensuring you are positioning your business as a welcoming and attractive place to work. This will involve researching salaries available in similar roles and also understanding other benefits people look for in a new career, such as flexible working, location, wellbeing, inclusive environment, pension and maternity benefits.

Adopting flexible solutions

It might be that the best solution lies in temporary recruitment, whether that’s short-term contracts, or even hiring freelance consultants for specific phases of the project. This can make it easier to access the specialised expertise you need without the expectation of having to make any long-term commitments, particularly when you’re recruiting for a grant-funded project.

Unlocking your talent pool

As a recruitment business partner, we use a variety of methods, including our decades of experience and network of contacts across technical, engineering and manufacturing sectors, to find suitable candidates. We will actively engage with your potential new hires using targeted measures such as reaching out to our own database, referrals, targeted advertising, professional networking sites and appropriate social media platforms.

To find out more about how Jonathan Lee Recruitment can support agritech businesses, visit, or contact agritech recruitment specialist, Matt Johnson, on 01952 987033, or email


Border farm with bags of development potential to be sold by informal tender

A versatile Shropshire-Powys border arable and grassland farm with great residential development potential is being offered for sale by informal tender as whole or in four lots.

White House Farm is beautifully located in the rural hamlet of Binweston, near Worthen, just 10 miles from Welshpool and 14 miles from Shrewsbury. The sale is being handled by Halls, a leading regional firm of estate agents, chartered surveyors, auctioneers and valuers.

At the centre of the farm is a five bedroomed original Welsh longhouse with interesting traditional features.

The property also comprises a range of traditional buildings with planning consent for conversion to two homes and a garage, two building plots with full planning permission for two, detached homes and two lots of productive arable and grassland extending to 101.94 acres.

The sale of White House Farm offers purchasers the opportunity to acquire a well- situated and versatile property, located in a popular area of Shropshire bordering Wales,” said Louise Preece, an associate director of Halls.

Lot one includes the timber framed, rendered brick and stone farmhouse which provides comfortable accommodation with exposed timbers and framework throughout.

The ground floor has a farmhouse kitchen/breakfast room, former dairy/salting room, back kitchen, utility, boot room, living room with log burner and back boiler, dining room with an open fire, pantry and a cellar. Two separate staircases rise to the first floor where there are five bedrooms and a family bathroom.

The farmhouse has a large a large lawn to the rear with a rockery and boundary fence. Domestic outbuildings include a log store and workshop with double steel doors and an inspection pit.

Lot two comprises the range of 19th century red brick barns with planning consent for conversion to two homes with three bedrooms each, a detached garage, parking and garden areas, access from the adjacent road and demolition of steel framed and block buildings.

Lot three comprises 91.24 acres of versatile arable and grassland and a menage with a ‘Carpet Gallops’ shredded carpet surface.

Lot four includes 10.70 acres of productive permanent grassland with road access and lot five is a development site with planning consent for two detached homes with attached garages.


Potential buyers must complete and return a tender form to Louise Preece at Halls’ Battlefield head office by 12 noon on Monday, November 27. Viewing is by appointment with Halls on Tel: 01743 450700.

Successful sale of 2,000 breeding sheep at Bishops Castle

Auctioneers Halls held their second seasonal sale of 2,000 breeding sheep on Love Lane, Bishops Castle on Saturday which included 650 yearlings and stock ewes, 700 ewe lambs, 50 breeding rams and 600 store lambs.

Prices were as good as ever, said auctioneer David Bryan Jones, with a number of buyers keen to satisfy their requirements before the end of the season.

The sale included the annual prize event for ewe lambs with the G. Bryan Jones Cup awarded to the best pen of 10 or more theaves.  The class was expertly judged by Murray Roberts and the cup was presented by Gerald Bryan Jones’ wife Paula and daughter Phoebe with the cup going to Brian and Chris Roberts, The Forge, Felindre.

Averages prices: Yearling ewes £181 to £212, stock ewes £106 to £170, ewe lambs £125 to £155, breeding rams £530 to £820 and store lambs    £85 to £107.

Leading prices were: Yearling ewes: Welsh Mule: £212 Messrs W. C. & J. M. Gittins, Ashton Farm. Texel: £202   Mr R. J. Amphlett, Edgton Farm. Stock ewes. £170 Messrs B. O. & C. E. Roberts, The Forge. Store sheep: £133 for Mr D. H. Tilsley, Foxhill Farm. Ewe lambs: £155 for Messrs B. O. & C. E. Roberts. Texel breeding rams:  £820 for Messrs K. J. & T. M. C. Llewellyn, Broadway Farm. Store lambs: £107 for Mr M. Hooker, Ellenvale.

In the first sale, on September 1, Halls reported a “fantastic trade” for an entry of 3,200 breeding sheep, with yearling ewes averaging just shy of £200 to £260 per head and ewe lambs £165 to £175 per head.

The prize sale of Welsh Mules for the Andrew Lawton Cup was judged by Nigel Pennie and the winner was Luke Page. The Derek Pugh Cup for the highest priced pen of commercial ewes was won by N. L. Pugh & Co.

Top priced yearlings were £260 for Welsh Mules from L Page and £230 for Texels from N. L Pugh & Co. Top priced ewe lambs were £175 for Suffolks from G. H. Bayliss & Son and £168 for Texels from R. T. Bright & Son.

The Tom Gittins Cup will be on offer at the next sale of store cattle at Bishops Castle Market Thursday, October 12, starting at 10.30am.

Bishops Castle and District Quality Cattle Association is holding at prize sale of suckled calves and weanlings at the market on Thursday, October 19, with entries closing on October 9.

Picture caption:

Paula Jones and Phoebe Jones present the G. Bryan Jones Cup to winners Brian and Chris Roberts watched by judge Murray Roberts.

Agritech start-ups must dig deeper to find the right people

Start-up businesses which are driving innovation in agritech must dig deeper if they want to attract the people they need to turn their dreams into reality, according to a specialist recruitment firm.

Efforts to tackle the global issues of climate change and a growing population are resulting in innovations that are transforming agriculture in ways never seen before, with much of that being driven by small start-ups with new ideas that need to be funded, developed and tested.

This innovation is being supported by a wave of government-backed grants, injecting tens of millions of pounds into the sector. In many cases, grants are empowering visionary entrepreneurs and pioneering start-ups to turn their dreams into reality, resulting in some amazing inventions.

Jonathan Lee Recruitment has been helping these businesses to overcome the various recruitment challenges often faced by grant-funded start-ups.

The business is based at Telford’s Agri-EPI Centre, which was established as part of the Government’s agritech strategy to bridge the gap between the people creating these new technologies and those who benefit from them. This involves supporting the wider commercialisation of ideas to ensure concepts make it onto the farm in a way that is profitable and sustainable.

Some impressive projects have been assisted by the Agri-EPI Centre partnership, including a robot that analyses conditions in bulk grain stores, automated lettuce harvesting, early illness and disease detection in calves and an intelligent water trough.

Matt Johnson, agritech recruitment specialist at Jonathan Lee Recruitment, said: “A key part of getting innovations off the ground is recruitment. But finding the right people can be more challenging for a start-up venture, perhaps with limited job security to offer, uncertainty around funding and contract lengths and the need for incredibly specific skills.

“This is where it’s worth partnering with a specialist firm to help solve that recruitment challenge. For example, we recently worked with an agritech start-up which was struggling to find a design engineer to take its prototypes forward.

“UPP has pioneered new technology which uses AI and automation to harvest broccoli crops more efficiently while significantly reducing waste by collecting the previously discarded parts of the plant to turn into sustainable proteins.

“The smart machinery fully automates the spotting, cutting, lifting and carrying process at a rate of up to 3km/h, and allows for the 80% of the plant that is normally left behind to be upcycled into a product that can now be sold.

“We were able to find the perfect candidate with an agricultural and engineering background who, not only had the right skillset, but was also looking to escape the city rat race. 

“With start-ups in particular, it’s often as much about finding people with similar values as specific sets of skills.”

Finding the right fit

If you’re a start-up, building the right team to turn your vision into reality is crucial, and you won’t have time for endless rounds of failed recruitment. You need people who share your ethos and vision, and this goes beyond matching skills and qualifications.

It’s about taking time to dig deeper in that job search by developing recruitment strategies that are built on an understanding of your company ethos and mission and using this to find people with a shared passion, as well as the right skills, or transferable skills.

Tailored recruitment strategies

Recruiting for an agritech start-up can be complicated by the fact that grants might be paid in stages, or cash flow is restricted, so having a tailored strategy that prepares for the staffing needs over a six or 12-month period can help with effective budgeting, as well as the building and nurturing of a talent pool in advance.

Retention strategies 

Grant-funded projects operate on specific timelines, potentially adding to the uncertainty for employees. Transparency from the beginning, with clear timescales, goals, and career development plans, is crucial for retaining top talent. Building a cohesive team that believes in the project’s mission can be a powerful retention strategy.

Flexible recruitment

Because of the limitations that often come with grant funding, or the uncertainty associated with the development of a new idea, it could be that the answer lies in a more flexible recruitment solution, such as short-term contracts, freelancers, or the hiring of consultants for specific phases of the project. As well as helping to overcome any perceived risk of joining a start-up, this approach can make it easier to access specialist skills and knowledge as and when it’s needed.

To find out more about how Jonathan Lee Recruitment can support agritech businesses, visit, or contact agritech recruitment specialist, Matt Johnson, on 01952 987033, or email

Agri-EPI Centre partnership continues to ‘bear fruit’ for specialist recruitment firm

An exciting initiative to grow the UK’s agricultural industry is ‘bearing fruit’ for a specialist recruitment firm since it joined Telford’s agri-tech innovation hub.

Jonathan Lee Recruitment took up offices in the Agri-EPI Centre, based at Harper Adams University, earlier this year to be closer to the community it serves – supporting agri-tech businesses by sourcing the specialist skills they need to develop ideas, design processes, or grow their operations.

The move has led to more conversations, more enquiries, and new clients, which is enabling the company to contribute towards the creation of a more sustainable society.

Grant Nisbet, Director of Jonathan Lee Recruitment, said: “There are some really exciting innovations happening in agri-tech right now which are transforming the UK agricultural industry to become more efficient and more sustainable.

“But finding the right people to drive those innovations forward is challenging. Talent attraction and management solutions are needed more than ever to bridge that skills gap. The Agri-EPI Centre is home to a variety of these innovative projects, as well as being closely linked to the sector-leading Harper Adams University and the nearby agri-tech Ni.Park in Newport, which has just opened a second phase.

“Being at the heart of that community, both in Telford and the Agri-EPI Centre itself, is enabling us to add even more value to the sector. It’s opened many doors, including giving us immediate access to a 200+ membership of businesses in the agri-tech sector.

“We even helped the start-up in the office next door to find a design engineer to work on the development of their unique new broccoli harvesting machine. It’s almost certain we wouldn’t have had this opportunity if we weren’t based in the centre.”

UPP has pioneered new technology which uses AI and automation to harvest broccoli crops more efficiently while significantly reducing waste by collecting the previously discarded parts of the plant to turn into sustainable proteins.

The smart machinery fully automates the spotting, cutting, lifting and carrying process at a rate of up to 3km/h, and allows for the 80% of the plant that is normally left behind to be upcycled into a product that can now be sold.

But the company was struggling to find a suitably qualified and experienced design engineer to help take the prototypes forward.

Where other agencies had failed, Jonathan Lee was able to find the perfect candidate with an agricultural and engineering background who, not only had the right skillset, but was also looking to escape the city rat race. Mark Thackwray was also at a time in his life where he was willing and able to take what some might perceive as a risk, by joining an agri-tech start-up.

Mark has held a variety of roles throughout his career in both manual and design aspects of engineering since studying mechanical engineering with agriculture at Harper Adams University in the early 1980s. Later he completed a Bachelor of Engineering degree and added skills in CAD software.

Mark always had a love of agriculture, after growing up next to a farm, and was able to pursue his passion in the early stages of his career, working at companies where he was involved in early irrigation systems and designing prototype balers and potato harvesters.

But in recent years, he’d been working in more heavy industrial settings, including his previous job working as a design engineer at an industrial equipment supplier.

After suffering with serious health problems throughout a large portion of his adult life and now aged 61, Mark was looking for a change – he just didn’t know what it was.

“I’d put my CV out there and had several approaches and job offers straight away, but it was the consultants at Jonathan Lee who really grasped what I was looking for and spotted my potential for the role at UPP,” Mark said.

“My early career was all agricultural and while I’ve worked in and around that to some extent since, it’s been mostly in more stressful industrial applications in recent years.

“Part of the job stress was a hectic, busy commute to the outskirts of Birmingham. I now travel a short distance in the opposite direction to a wonderful countryside location which is right on my doorstep.

“The stress of those previous roles was even making me consider a complete career change to driving a taxi or something. But this is perfect. I get to work on an exciting project with a lot of problem solving. I work on the design, but I can also be hands on, so I’m drawing on all my skills.

“I know people might think it’s a risk working for a start-up, but given all the benefits of the job and the rural setting, it was a risk that was definitely worth taking for me. The job, the place, the building, the people, it’s all fantastic. When I come outside, I can breathe the fresh air and hear the birds tweeting rather than being next to a main road on a busy industrial estate.

“The opportunity to design something which I know will impact people’s lives is also pretty great. I’m much happier.

“As well as recognising the transferrable skills, Matt, Peter and the team at Jonathan Lee realised that it was as much about the values and additional benefits for me, which led me to pursue the role at UPP rather than one of the other prospects I had on the table. I’m lucky that they felt I was the right fit for them too.

To find out more about how Jonathan Lee Recruitment can support agri-tech businesses, visit, or contact agri-tech recruitment specialist, Matt Johnson, on 01952 987033, or email