Jonathan scoops top Innovation Award at Show

Mulnagore farmer Jonathan Ewing who won the M&S Innovation Award at the recent M&S Farming for the Future Awards at Balmoral Show.
Mulnagore farmer Jonathan Ewing who won the M&S Innovation Award at the recent M&S Farming for the Future Awards at Balmoral Show.

A local producer for Marks & Spencer has been rewarded for his excellence in innovation at a M&S ‘Farming for the Future’ Award presentation, which took place at the Balmoral Show.

Jonathan Ewing from Mulnagore scooped the Innovation Award which recognises producers who are pushing the boundaries in their sector.

Jonathan’s attention to detail has helped him to establish a successful and efficient free range egg enterprise after making the switch from broiler chicken rearing.

Jonathan has a lot of experience in the poultry industry, having started out in broiler production in 1996. The business expanded extensively over the years to five chicken houses, but the decision was taken to switch over to egg production in 2010. The farm is now converting to free range egg production and the first 16,000 free range hens were housed earlier this year, providing eggs to M&S through Skea Eggs.

Jonathan said: “In order to maintain a profitable business and produce the best quality eggs, we have had to embrace changes and innovation across all aspects of our farm enterprise, from housing to green energy.

“A computerised ventilation system is used to ensure that chicken houses are kept at an optimum temperature across the whole farm, to maintain hen welfare and manage feed intakes.

“Technology is also employed to keep energy costs, one of the largest overheads on the farm, down. As such, we’ve invested considerably in renewable energy, installing photovoltaic panels which help to meet most of the farm’s energy requirements.”

One of the most significant challenges that Jonathan has faced is the cost associated with exporting chicken manure waste away from the farm. Jonathan has now turned this challenge into a potential advantage and is currently working on a business plan to develop the facilities needed to dry and then pellet the farm’s chicken manure, so that it can then be sold into the horticulture market

By embracing change and innovation Jonathan has developed a successful and sustainable business, which he hopes will provide a good legacy for his five children.

Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S said: “The Farming for the Future awards are now in their tenth year, acknowledging the dedication and commitment our farmers and growers are making towards Plan A and sharing best practice amongst the agricultural community across Ireland and the UK.

“Jonathan is a very worthy winner and has proved this by demonstrating his innovative thinking, commercial success and social responsibility in the way he manages and executes his business.

“Our judges were particularly impressed with Jonathan’s use of technology to address animal welfare and efficiency, his innovative approach to recycling waste and his drive to create a sustainable business for future generations.”

Open to M&S local and international producers, the Farming for the Future Awards celebrate the important role suppliers play in working towards M&S’ Plan A commitments, which include: being carbon neutral, sending no waste to landfill, sustainable sourcing, setting new standards in ethical trading, helping customers and employees live a healthier lifestyle

Jonathan received £500 in M&S vouchers for the award and has been entered into an ‘Overall Farming for the Future Champion Award’ for 2017, to be presented later this year.