The farm: “I run a mixed enterprise with my son Adrian on 120ac at Ballymena, Co Antrim. We operate a seed potato business, a suckler herd of 50 Angus cows and we grow pak choi.”
Growing pak choi: “We used to run a large scale business growing and exporting seed potatoes, but gradually reduced the operation. As we scaled back, we were looking to diversify and I wanted to try something different. We started growing pak choi in our poly tunnels on soil benches, but it was difficult to get it right. So we moved to hydroponics. After several years of experimenting and making tweaks, we started growing commercially and have been supplying supermarkets for 10 years.”
Supply: “It takes six to eight weeks from planting seeds until the pak choi is ready to harvest. We harvest weekly from early March right up to Christmas time and have one full-time employee, Olive Davison, in the business.”
Sustainability: “Using hydroponics is the most efficient way to grow a crop. The system supplies the exact amount of water and nutrients needed by the plant, so there is nothing wasted. We also have a wind turbine on farm and the power generated is used within the poly tunnels."
Potatoes: “We still grow potatoes, mostly a variety called Sunbeam, which we bred ourselves. We have exported potatoes to the continent in the past, but just focus on supplying local shops now.”
Cattle: “We run around 50 Angus cows, which are bred to a Stabiliser stock bull. Cows are mainly spring-calving to make the most of grass. Calves are reared until they are ready for slaughter, but sold through the live ring.”
Farming recognition: “I have been growing and breeding potatoes for as long as I have been farming. In recent years, I was fortunate to be awarded an MBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth for services to agriculture, which was a great honour to receive.”