So, how did we get to where we are today? Good question! Well, it all started back in 2006, when Stephen read a magazine article about the fantastic nutritional properties of quinoa, leading him to buy a small amount to try the product. Fortunately, he loved it, but it got him thinking.... wouldn’t it be great if we could produce British grown quinoa on the family farm? And so, the experiment began!
Initially, we planted a small trial on our farm to test the differences between several types of quinoa that could easily be purchased from off the local supermarket shelf. Luck however was not on our side as the seeds would either fail to germinate or the plants wouldn’t reach maturity within the cool UK climate. We moved on to testing a vast array of other quinoa varieties, from bird seed to small packets from garden centres, again without success as the quality of the harvested seed was poor and not suitable for consumption.
Our breakthrough came when we were fortunate enough to trial some new quinoa varieties that had been bred for our European climate... and they were fantastic! The new varieties produced a high quality quinoa sample with nice big white grains, and they successfully matured come the Autumn allowing us to mechanically harvest the crop with our combine. We now have the exclusive UK licence to these new quinoa varieties and have built our business up around them.
After we discovered these new varieties we were still left with the massive practical conundrum of... how do you actually grow quinoa? Well, several years on and we’ve cracked it! It took many field experiments to teach us how to successfully establish a crop, control weeds and harvest a high quality product. We've have had many hard lessons along the way to get to where we are now, but with each passing season we’ve certainly learnt how to grow a great crop of British quinoa.
Our first fully commercial crop was produced in 2013, in which we harvested around 20 tonnes of quinoa. Our first intention was to package the crop ourselves for sale in local wholefood stores, but when we were approached by Pret A Manger to supply our British quinoa for their product range, we jumped at the chance! In 2014, we produced around 80 tonnes of British quinoa, and were spurred on by being featured on Countryfile and winning the Arable Innovator of the Year Award at the British Farming Awards. In 2015, with the help of a few other passionate UK farmers we took a big leap forward and produced close to 700 tonnes to help meet our customer’s rapidly growing demand, and we’re again aiming to continue expanding our quinoa crops in 2016. Over the past 12 months we’ve worked hard to develop our own brand retail packs which are now making their way into stores across the country, and this brings us back around to fulfil our initial ambition from when we first started our fledgling quinoa business... at long last!
The British Quinoa Company Ltd