Until recently, it wasn’t possible to grow quinoa in this country as it didn’t suit our climate. But Stephen Jones didn’t let that stop him. He carried out trials of several different types of quinoa on his family’s farm in Shropshire until he found one that worked – a new variety specially bred to complement European conditions. Fast forward through many field experiments and The British Quinoa Company produced its first commercial crop of 20 tonnes in 2013, which then rose to 80 tonnes the following year. Today, even more hectares have been planted, Stephen supplies Pret A Manger and he’s appeared on Countryfile.
“I first came up with the idea of growing quinoa after reading a feature in a magazine in which they described the health benefits of quinoa,” he said. “It got me thinking if I could grow it in the UK and market it under my own brand.
“Growing quinoa isn’t easy and remains a high risk crop due to the lack of long established production experience and agronomy trials like there are for say wheat or oilseed rape. We are still learning a lot every season and are always surprised by unexpected situations that arise and sometimes teach us a hard lesson!
“We have now taken on several growers across the UK to help grow the crop for us so that we can meet the demand. It’s a very niche crop and I’d recommend only growing it on contract for a company such as ourselves. We’ve invested a lot of time investigating the optimal agronomy production of the crop, so it’s best to have that support package there to ensure everything goes correctly. The processing of the crop is very hard too, and again this wouldn’t be possible without the equipment we’re invested in to enable our crops to be food grade standard.”
Subscribe to Diversify Now to read more about Stephen’s burgeoning quinoa business.