EQ Help Young Farmer Cement Future With New Business Project!

As a farmer, James Fairlie is accustomed to risk, uncertainty and change.

However, James, who runs the operations at the Kirkton of Monikie Farm in Angus, along with his father, Iain, has cemented his future by embarking on a new business project which complements his day-to-day farm work.

James (29), who won ‘Young Farmer of the Year’ in the Farmers Weekly Awards 2017, believes rewarding times are ahead after investing in an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant on the farm at Monikie.

James said, “After taking over the management role of the farm business from my father a few years ago, I was keen to look at alternative business ventures which would generate a healthier and more predictable cashflow. With the constant volatilities of crop prices and the uncertainty over future subsidies, our income was becoming severely affected and difficult to budget.”

The AD plant runs at a constant temperature of 41 degrees which induces an anaerobic state that James compares to a ‘large cow’s stomach’ which, in turn, generates 500kW of electricity that James then sells to the national grid. The plant also provides a lucrative outlet for by-product waste which can be used as fertiliser on the farm.

Steering him in the right direction throughout was EQ Chartered Accountants who, with offices in Dundee, Forfar, Cupar and Glenrothes, are widely regarded as Scotland’s leading agricultural accountants and business advisors.

A key member of the team is EQ Partner and Agricultural Corporate Finance specialist Mark Smeaton who assists many farming businesses with new ventures, including land acquisitions and renewable projects as well as the reorganisation of existing bank debt.  In just two years, Mark has succeeded in finance deals worth around £140M for his agricultural clients.

James explained, “My family’s relationship with EQ dates back over 30 years. Their knowledge of agriculture, and the many challenges it brings, is second-to-none. Mark is also from a local farming family and has good knowledge of the practical challenges that I face day-to-day.  EQ understand how a farm operates and speak the same language.  My daily schedule is so hectic – I need to deal with people who know my business and the timeframes we operate in. Put simply, life would be much harder if I didn’t have EQ on board.”

Researching the idea, Mark helped James go over the projections, calculate the potential income and explore how to use that income to invest back into the farm.

 James added, “Mark felt like a safety net, providing the reassurance that what we were investing in would work. He then pulled together all of the necessary projections to show the bank that this was a viable investment.”

Mark explained “Having worked in the agricultural finance sector for most of my working life, I benefit from a strong network of contacts, both agricultural and financial, and can help clients identify the best options, supporting them with their long-term business objectives.”

Looking to the future, James said, “The farm is now a different animal – I delegate more and I’m less hands on. Yes, it’s been a steep learning curve but it’s been so reassuring having EQ behind me throughout, and with me on the journey ahead.”

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