Last week we spent a couple of days at the Farm Business Innovation Show, down at the NEC in Birmingham. This was our first event like this, so we were keen to see how it all worked and to get a broader picture of the challenges our customers face. Most of our work is carried out in rural communities where connectivity is lacking, so getting to talk to lots of farmers and rural business owners was very enlightening for us.
Here are the top 5 things we learnt over the two days:
1) THERE ARE LOTS OF INNOVATIVE RURAL BUSINESSES OUT THERE
From gin distilling to fancy dress via ice cream cones, one of the main things we saw at the Farm Business Innovation Show was the sheer amount of rural businesses that exist, and the specific niches that they cover. We wandered around when the chance arose and had a chat with a lot of the other exhibitors and it was really great to see the passion and excitement shine through.
2) GLAMPING IS GOING TO BE HUGE IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS
Whether it’s the uncertainty caused by Brexit, or the desire to reduce our carbon footprint, more and more people are choosing to holiday in the UK, and there was plenty of opportunity for farmers and landowners to turn their picturesque land into our perfect holiday destination by purchasing chalets, wigwams, yurts or pod-like holiday accommodation.
3) ATTENDEES WANTED TO LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS
Lots of the talks were very well attended and some of them even had people standing in the hallway to listen in! Not just the ‘cool’ stuff either, like drones or how to get followers on social media. We went to a few of the more service led talks about tax, accounting, rewilding and regulation and they were also full, or very close to it.
4) THERE IS PRACTICAL HELP AVAILABLE, WHATEVER YOUR NEED
We spoke to a lot of people who work in the farming and rural communities to help people and businesses in a practical and effective way. Whether it’s a networking organisation such as the CLA, a board to help with funding such as the Rural Payments Agency (England-centric but the Scottish and Welsh governments have equivalents), or someone to be there if you need advice or just someone to talk to like The Farming Community Network there is a plethora of organisations, charities and business out there to provide help if and when needed.
5) RURAL BROADBAND IS STILL POOR, BUT INCREASINGLY VITAL
As you may imagine many people came to talk to us about our broadband solutions, and to tell us about how bad their service currently is. As more and more services become digital it’s going to be increasingly important that farms and rural businesses have decent internet coverage. From taxes, to permits, to animal tagging and everything in-between there is a shift to needing to complete these tasks online and we risk failing rural businesses if we can’t give them the connectivity they need.
All in all we had a great time, and really enjoyed getting out there and speaking to people. We can’t wait for the next show.