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Nortenergy

A social enterprise in Shetland creates a unique product to enable fresh fruit and vegetables to be grown undercover in extreme climates

Polycrub in Shetland

Reducing food miles and growing fresh local produce creates new opportunities for social entperise

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 in 2008 was the lack of quality fruit and vegetables available locally. The community wanted to find a way to reduce food miles and grow local amidst the challenging Shetland climate. As the design of Polycrub progressed, the group were approached and asked to consider an alternative use for redundant equipment from the aquaculture industry rather continue to send it to landfill, leading to a more circular economy.

The Polycrub 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 and France, as well as other community groups and individual growers. Selling Polycrub kits is now a key trading activity for Nortenergy.

The popularity of the product sparked a £400,000 expansion of the business in 2018, including a £157,213 investment from HIE. Growth projections at that time were 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 are reinvested in the community by the Northmavine Community Development Company.

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 in Northmavine, the company is helping communities in other fragile areas who face similar geographic or climatic challenges.