When you hear stories of young entrepreneurs like Kate and Annie Madden from Meath in Ireland, who founded FenuHealth when they were 14 and 13 respectively, who already have a staff of eight, a distributor in Germany and one in Qater, you start to believe – given the chance young people can really make a difference to their own situation and have an impact on the economy within their local and wider communities.
In 2015 the horse mad sisters entered the BT Young Scientist exhibition with a study that looked at encouraging horses to eat by adding flavours to their feed. The sisters came second in their category in the competition with their flavoured foods project and their success caught the eye of Michael Connolly of animal feed and nutrition company, Connolly’s Red Mills. He contacted the sisters and subsequently became their “knight in shining armour” and helped shepherd them through the process of commercialising their idea.
Agribusiness, which encompasses farming and farming related commercial activities – has a long and illustrious history in Cumbria. In the 19th Century William Lawson implemented innovative and idealistic farming practices at Mechi Farm and the Blennerhasset Estate and adding value in what would be considered agribusiness today such as a market garden, an artificial manure works, a laboratory, a gas works, a and a flax works.
Today, companies like Carr's Group (founded in 1831 initially in the baking industry), Lakes Free Range Egg Company, and H & H Group illustrate a diverse range of agribusinesses and the career paths available.
But how do we encourage our young people from non-rural and those from traditional farming backgrounds to consider agribusiness and the plethora of opportunities it offers, particularly post Brexit?
One of the LEPs key sectors is the strengthening and continued development of the rural and visitor economy, specifically exploiting major new project opportunities for local rural supply chains and adding value to under-exploited rural resources.
One way of course is for young people to be mentored and have more engagement with representatives of the agribusiness sector. From big business through to small enterprises and tenant farmers members of this industry can really help young people understand the opportunities.
Within Cumbria there are a number of mentoring programmes to help young people be inspired and to raise aspirations and awareness of career opportunities within and outside the county.
In Allerdale, Copeland and Carlisle, The Employer Mentoring programme which is managed by Inspira looks set to grow which is a great opportunity for agribusiness to get involved.
Like the REACT Foundation which was originally conceived in 2004 to encourage West Cumbrian students to attend university to study an engineering related degree, a similar sector led Agribusiness programme could also have the same positive effect.
Imagine mentoring taken to the next level, Cumbria's own Dragon Den style scheme helping young people to understand more about the industry, business acumen and working in commercial environments – who knows, our own Katie and Annie Madden could be waiting in the wings, ready to be discovered and given the chance to have an impact on the County's economy.