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Rapid Growth for Lockwood Salads

Breaking through the traditional images of farmers and farming, comes a modern day, family-run salad-growing business based in Hinckley, Leicestershire. With the use of new technology, practices that protect the natural environment and a passion for healthy, high-quality food, the young team at Lockwood Salads are changing perceptions leaf by leaf.

With an agricultural degree, followed by hands-on and management experience at farms in England and Canada as well as an exciting year in southern Italy growing spinach, Adam Lockwood (32) knew he wanted more. Realising there weren’t many people growing baby leaf salad, he began Lockwood Salads in 2019 with 50 acres of land. The business grows baby spinach, red lettuce, bull’s blood, red chard, land cress and wild rocket.

As the business began to grow, Adam looked for support from the Business Gateway Growth Hub which is the one-stop shop for Leicestershire businesses.

Before COVID, the business operated in two ways – growing and packing its own branded salad bags for wholesale markets used by foodservice and catering businesses and selling crops that went straight from the field in trucks to larger suppliers who washed, packed and distributed them to supermarkets. This was during their core season which runs from April to October. The rest of the year the team would import salad from Europe, pack and send it out giving the business an all-year supply.

As hospitality businesses closed due to the national lockdown, this effectively ended the supply to this sector but when the supermarkets began to demand more with everyone staying at home, Lockwood Salads switched its focus to this side of the business. Its volume for supermarkets has risen massively from 15,000 to around 35,000 kilos a week but Brexit has also had a huge impact resulting in price wars with larger suppliers, so Lockwood Salads has not returned to importing salad on the same scale for the time being.

The business has four employees, including Adam’s partner Alice, which increases to 15 people during peak season. Growth has been rapid and the business now has 300 acres to manage. Adam regularly calls on Business Gateway adviser, Aruna Bhagwan, for advice.

He explained: “In the first year you are setting everything up – finding a farm, getting customers, growing a crop.  It wasn’t easy but I knew what I had to do. I was using a loan and my own money. The second-year was much more difficult with a lot more outgoings like seeds and rent, and with no reserves, cash flow was an issue. This was made harder being a seasonal business where we are spending from February but have no income until June. I turned to Aruna to help me consider a growth plan.

“She gave me advice on the different avenues of support and we were signposted to Hinckley and Bosworth Council’s Recovery Grant. Aruna helped me through the application process and we were successful in securing £15,000 towards a new robotic weeding machine, which is going to greatly improve efficiency.”

He added: “I have to say Aruna has been absolutely fantastic. From the beginning, I’ve tried to surround myself with people that can listen and advise. I count Aruna as one of those people. I can pick up the phone anytime and have a chat, it definitely helps to get an external viewpoint.”

Aruna commented: “This is such a positive team who are changing the way things are done. From using vegetable oil as fuel to reduce carbon emissions to monitoring rainfall data to inform their decision-making. I’m so proud of what they’ve achieved. They are on an exciting upward trajectory, and it’s been a pleasure supporting them.”

The Lockwood Salads team are now looking at new ideas to extend their season. This includes a new pumpkin patch which will be ready for visitors to come and pick their own during October, as well as investigating the growth of organic produce.

For a full business review including help with sourcing finance for growth, contact the Business Gateway on 0116 366 8487 or email growthhub@bizgateway.org.uk