Going digital to diversify: The future of Scotland’s agriculture industry
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every individual, every business, and every industry. And none more so than that of agriculture. In fact, according to research from the Syngeta Group, almost half of large EU farmers say their farming businesses have been impacted by the pandemic, with a third questioning the long-term viability of farming as a business due to declines in revenue, disrupted supply chains and increased costs.
As a team of agriculture PR specialists, we are lucky to work with some amazing businesses across Scotland’s agriculture sector and so have seen first-hand how it has been impacted. Perhaps the saddest moment of our year (and many others) came when we had to announce the cancellation of the 2020 Royal Highland Show. We have worked with RHASS to deliver all the PR and comms behind the show for over 20 years and never have we faced anything like this. The show, which celebrates the best of Scotland’s food, farming and rural life, has survived plagues, floods and animal disease, so its cancellation really highlighted the devastating impact of the pandemic.
However, as we look toward a brighter 2021 with the prospect of a vaccine and a return to some sense of normal, it is important to look at examples of agriculture businesses that have, through their own sheer will, flexibility and creativity, been able to successfully navigate 2020 through the power of digital diversification.
Craigies Farm Shop
Craigies Farm Shop, located just outside of Edinburgh, is a thriving café, deli and pick-your-own events business. As Covid-19 took hold however, the business quickly realised it could not rely on its usual stream of customers and the owners had to adapt quickly in order to survive.
Craigies pivoted to an online business model almost overnight, transforming to a full click and collect and grocery delivery service, as well as a take-away service. This digital transformation not only enabled the shop and deli to continue to operate, it also helped Craigies manage its events business within strict social distancing rules, with customers booking slots for picking their own fruit, pumpkins and Santa breakfasts throughout the year. It has never been busier.
Rosebery Venues, which offers prestigious corporate, private and wedding venues just outside Edinburgh, saw its bookings cancelled and enquiries fall off a cliff at the beginning of lockdown.
The owners had to very quickly review the entire business and understand how it could continue to market its event venues and secure bookings amidst the mass cancellations. A move to digital played an important role in securing its future as the business quickly commissioned video footage which was used to conduct virtual tours and promote the venues online. Rosebery also quickly adapted its wedding and events packages to cater for smaller, more intimate weddings thereby attracting those who planned to continue with their special day and could not be accommodated by their original venue.
Despite the huge sadness surrounding the cancellation of the Royal Highland Show, its organisers at RHASS quickly rallied. By working in collaboration with partners, the team took elements of the show online, bringing thousands of us together to celebrate the show, to champion the industry and to focus on what the future holds.
There are so many more examples of businesses that have successfully diversified and made the move online in order to cope with the extraordinary challenges 2020 has presented. Our agriculture industry has always demonstrated innovation, and there has never been a better time to take advantage of technology to drive change as we recover in 2021.
This move to digital, combined with the fact that the pandemic has undoubtably reinforced the importance of buying and supporting local, means that while the last year has been unimaginably difficult, there is a real opportunity for farmers and wider agriculture businesses to make their mark in a post-pandemic Scotland.
If you are looking for support on the move to digital, get in touch. We’d love to hear your story.