Many Irish tillage farmers will be aware of, and possibly even met, Keith Dawson during one of his many visits to this country.

At that time, he was an active researcher in Scotland and for many years now he has had a management and consultancy involvement in a number of UK-run agribusinesses in countries such as Poland, Ukraine and Cuba.

One of the most notable of these ventures was Continental Farmers in western Ukraine.

This 200,000ha unit was Europe's largest regenerative arable farm. This business had several small and some larger Irish investors.


Continental Farmers was sold in recent years and it made way for a new start-up called Central Plains Group (CPG) in 2019.

CPG is a Scottish farming company, which was founded by a team of British farmers and technologists and it is also based in Ukraine.

But it is a farm with a difference – its mission is to establish a large-scale potato and plant protein farming and processing operation that is to operate as a zero-waste bioeconomy.

Relationship with PepsiCo

Achieving this objective required the co-operation of agribusiness.

Potato production was underpinned by a long-term contract with PepsiCo to supply crisping potatoes grown close to Lviv in western Ukraine.

The first year in business went well, despite the challenges of COVID-19, and it is expanding with the help of a novel arable crowdfunding campaign.

While profitability is certainly a serious objective, the new venture is also about demonstrating what the future of farming should look like.

The business aims to be a vertically integrated farming and processing operation.

While the supply of high-quality potatoes and plant proteins to large food companies is important, the business is to function as zero-waste bioeconomy.

This means that every single output in the entire process is either recycled back into the land or used to produce low-carbon products supplying several global markets.

Potato starch and vegetable protein

The main low-carbon product is potato starch, to be used as feedstock for biodegradable packaging, and vegetable proteins.

Both of these product groups are in high demand, and growing, from food producers and retailers alike.

However, the company founders believe that the carbon impact credentials of most supply sources fall well short of the expectations of buyers.

CPG sees this as its marketing opportunity, as global food producers are coming under increasing pressure from consumers and shareholders to push towards a circular economy.

CPG now aims to push towards that elusive ‘net-zero’ target.

Harvest sunshine and capture carbon

From a sustainability perspective, company co-founder Dawson commented: "The fundamental aim of the business is to harvest sunshine and capture carbon through crop and soil.

"This must be done in an efficient and profitable manner, with a high level of environmental and societal sustainability and stewardship."

This is one of the first major UK-based farming businesses to seek crowdfunding investment and it is open to everyone.

It will be interesting to see how it performs in an era when sustainability and food security are supposedly top of the agenda.