June 8, 2021
While visiting Shetland last month, on a towering sea cliff right at the most northerly tip, I bumped into someone I knew. She runs the trading arm of a local development trust – Northmavine Community Development Company. One of the enterprises that NCDC operates is called Polycrub – a polytunnel built to withstand the 100+mph winds that regularly batter the islands. Reusing discarded fish farm materials and of their own unique design, sales are absolutely booming. Polycrub kits have been dispatched as far afield as the Falklands. Aside from renewable energy projects, I can’t think of a more financially successful community enterprise.
We are the designers, and only suppliers, of the Polycrub. We are based in Northmavine, Shetland and are a successful social enterprise. This makes us a little different from usual businesses. We are a trading arm of Northmavine Community Development Company (NCDC), a charity that works alongside local people to regenerate and develop Northmavine.
Like traditional businesses we aim to make a profit, but it’s what we do with our profits that sets us apart. We reinvest them in Northmavine to create positive social change by supporting community-based projects.
The ‘Polycrub’ concept began as an NCDC community project in 2008. Our community was keen to reduce food miles and grow more fresh produce locally.
Grant aid from the Climate Challenge Fund meant that we could build 12 community polytunnels in Northmavine. Each building was split into shared plots and almost 50 people in our community were able to grow undercover.
We needed our growing spaces to be able to stand up to the Shetland weather so, before we began the project, we considered design ideas. We developed these to create a structure that would withstand our harsh climate.
NCDC had been approached to find an alternative use for redundant equipment from the aquaculture industry which, at that time, was either being sent to landfill, or littering shorelines. We incorporated the waste materials in the design of our hoops.
Once our community growing project was complete, it attracted lots of interest from other community groups and individuals who wanted to buy our design. We branded the structures as the ‘Polycrub’ and we now sell them in kit form as far away as France and the Falklands.
Polycrubs are now popular with individual growers who need a robust growing space. Many schools and community groups have been able to access grant funding for Polycrub growing projects. Crofters and farmers with plans for crofting diversification could also be eligible for funding support through the agricultural grants system.
Polycrub has structural accreditation, our designs are subject to copyright and Polycrub® is trademarked.