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Product demand sparks expansion plans for Shetland social enterprise

Published: 25/04/2018

A unique product developed by a community organisation in Shetland is proving so popular that the group’s trading company is launching a major expansion.

Polycrub enables fruit and vegetables to be grown undercover in extreme climates. It was developed by Nortenergy, a social enterprise set up by the Northmavine Community Development Company operating in the northernmost peninsula of mainland Shetland.

Motivation for developing the product was the lack of quality fruit and vegetables available locally. Its design includes recycling waste salmon farm piping, which is readily available. The popularity of Polycrub has grown well beyond Shetland, including recent exports to the Falkland Islands. Selling Polycrub kits has become a key trading activity for Nortenergy.

Now the social enterprise is planning a £400,000 expansion of the business after securing a £157,213 investment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Over the next three years, its growth is expected to create 2.5 full time equivalent jobs in a fragile area, and more than double trading turnover from £223,000 to around £492,000. Profits from the business will be reinvested in the community by the Northmavine Community Development Company.

The Board of HIE paid a visit to Nortenergy today (Tuesday 24 April), when Chair Professor Lorne Crerar confirmed the agency’s contribution. He said:

“For many years now we have seen social enterprises across the Highlands and Islands developing ideas that not only overcome the challenges of the region’s geography, but capitalise on it. Nortenergy is a great example. The innovation we have seen here is inspiring; using the ready supply of waste salmon farm waste salmon farm piping, which would otherwise end up in landfill, to enable local people to grow their own fresh fruit and vegetables.

“The fact that Polycrub is proving so popular in other parts of the country and further afield is a real opportunity for Nortenergy. As well as generating community income and creating new jobs here in Northmavine, the company is helping communities in other fragile areas who face similar geographic or climatic challenges. I am delighted to confirm HIE’s support for this initiative and congratulate Nortenergy on their ambition and achievement.”

Margaret Roberts, director of NortEnergy, said: “We are delighted that HIE has the confidence to invest in this project and that the organisation is continuing to support this community, which has built a relationship with HIE over the past few years.”

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