A young entrepreneur from Ellon has won third place in the 2018 NFU Mutual and Scotland Food and Drink “Inspirational Young Person Award”.
Ellie Sinclair (23) launched her business VegCo in January 2016.
VegCo produces a range of tomato and chilli-based jams and sauces using the produce Ellie grows in her greenhouse on her parents’ 800-acre farm in Udny.
The business idea came when Ellie’s father Magnus challenged her to come up with an idea to use some of the renewable energy produced at the farm – and to help diversify the family business.
Ellie’s passion for local artisan food and produce was further inspired by working with local entrepreneur and chef John Cooper at Formartine’s in Tarves during her time at Robert Gordon’s University as well as a stint at BrewDog in Ellon.
She said: “The idea I came up with was to use some of the energy to heat and light the greenhouse with 600w lights, built within one of the farm sheds, and to grow tomatoes and chilies all year round. The plants could be planted right into the soil within the greenhouse which is protected by the larger shed. We trialed it and the conditions proved to be perfect.”
The crops thrived, and Ellie developed a range of chilli and tomato-based jams and sauces.
Since launching, both Ellie and her business have thrived and grown rapidly.
“Becoming an artisan food producer based on the family farm, using the output from the biogas plant and helping diversify the business feels like a completion of the circle.
“I am able to do something that I love and contribute to the sustainability of the family business.”
Last year Ellie was asked to join the ONE (Opportunity North East) 2017 Group, which she feels contributed to her success.
“The ONE initiative and people involved were a huge support in helping me get the business up and going.”
This year, Ellie helped launch the 2018 Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight and is a Young Ambassador for Scotland Food & Drink.
She is currently finishing the summer food and drink show circuit selling her jams and sauce while planning the autumn and Christmas events which start at the end of October.
For the next month she will prepare for the busy period ahead, as well as launching her 2018 seasonal Christmas sauce at the end of October.