Superfood crops lend themselves to being nutritionally rich and have shown positive market growth in more recent years. An increasing range of crops are being pioneered globally such as borage, quinoa and chia to name a few. Traditionally crops such as quinoa & chia have been produced in South-American regions, with Peru being the largest producer, annually producing around 77,000 tonnes & 15,000 tonnes respectively. Andrew & Peter Fairs began to grow quinoa inspired by a friend’s trip to Peru, and subsequently growing the seeds they received as a gift.
Located in Great Tey, Essex, their 5000 acre farm provides more than adequate space to grow superfoods and specialist crops on a mass scale, whilst supporting wildlife initiatives in the area, providing an abundance of nectar for bees.
The crops have produced some very positive results, but pioneering superfoods doesn’t come without its challenges. At first the high levels of bitter saponin made the quinoa un-fit for human consumption, but the pheasants and partridges couldn’t get enough of it. Subsequently, the Fairs combined it with kale seed and began sowing it as “Kingmix” game cover. After selectively breeding only the plants with the sweetest seeds, they have pioneered UK grown quinoa – now edible and selling fast!
Quinoa has to be sown in the spring on wide rows, allowing for easier inter-row weed control, additionally, the crop continues to be harvested late, sometimes even into October. Because growing prohibits the use of desiccants, a stripper header must be used, the crop is then placed in a mobile field drier, removing trash and preventing mycotoxin growth.
Entrepreneurship & innovation led the pair to grow borage, which produces twice as much gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) than a more common source – evening primrose oil. Whilst borage has proven its worth in providing numerous associated health benefits, its use stretches beyond oil production. More commonly nicknamed ‘bee bush’ the flowers of the plant are nectar rich, attracting numerous bees and other insects helping to positively increase biodiversity and maintain a rise in bee numbers.
The future of UK superfoods seems to be promising, as consumers adopt healthier diets and a greater number of growers invest in these crop types. Andrew informs us that UK could “overtake imported quinoa, if price and demand allow”. The demand for UK borage oil is increasing as farmers open their portfolios to a wider range of innovative crops, which contributes to the increasingly flourishing UK superfood market. Vision, entrepreneurialism & adaptability has all contributed to this thriving business. At CropTec we are proud to share and celebrate truly inspirational farmer stories such as that of Andrew and Peter Fairs.