Following the strangest year in most of our lives, we thought a Q&A with the Bright Seeds MD on how the industry is looking, and how Bright Seeds have coped, would be an interesting, more normal way to end the year.
With everything that has been going on, what kind of year has 2020 been for Bright Seeds?
Although the year began with a fair bit of uncertainty on how the shooting season would progress – there did seem to be a level of confidence that some form of shooting would go ahead. Thankfully, this confidence was well placed, and the shooting season has, quite rightly, been able to go ahead as planned bar the November lockdown. This optimism meant that the majority of customers were keen on getting their cover ready – meaning as a company we were still able to supply something near the normal amount.
There were a few shoots that, understandably, reduced the amount of days – which meant reducing overheads. So, some of our bigger, commercial customers pulled out; but nothing that we couldn’t handle.
I would say as a rule-of-thumb we produced roughly the same amount of game cover as we have for the past five years. Combining this with our big office move has meant that we’ve had our hands full and had plenty to be getting on with.
Moving offices this year must have been stressful. What made you decide to make the move?
Well, we’ve been considering a move for a number of years to somewhere that we own, rather than renting. We committed to buying and developing the land before the pandemic really hit – so it was just a case of getting on with it. We started the real development of the plot in the first lockdown back in March, some of the lads from the office who weren’t able to work indoors were also able to help because everything was outside.
The development was slowed at times due to the virus, mainly restrictions on movement and a shortage of building materials.
Now, we are looking to move into the new office in December – before Christmas – meaning we can kick start a new, exciting year inside a new office.
And what are the benefits of the new office space?
Well, for a start the land and building are owned by the company, which makes a lot more sense for the business.
Probably the biggest benefit is having our trial site right outside. It is a substantially bigger site which will allow for more trials, and being next door means we can keep a closer eye on it and see what is going on from day to day. It also means we can incorporate the trial site and the office and meeting room into our open days – something we’ve not been able to do up until now.
The trial site is becoming ever more important to us with Brexit around the corner. As a company, we are trying to focus efforts on developing more sustainable seed crops – such as millet, quinoa and other cereals. This allows us to be less reliant on importing from the EU and other parts of the world. It is an opportunity to own seed crops, which means controlling quality and a reduction in future costs.
Another real positive from the new, bigger trial site is incorporating our own wild-bird shoot, and there really is no better way to see what cover is working than to shoot it. Although we didn’t get on the ground very quickly, we were able to put some late-sown cover in in September which have grown really well. Our Autumn Promise is waist height, and the Keepers Relief is looking great too. We’ve been round with the pointer and things are looking ready to go.
Do you think the opposition to shooting has been particularly vocal over the last 12 months?
Whether it was the added stress of the pandemic or not, the shooting oppositions voice does seem to have been particularly loud over the last year. Obviously, the court case, led by Packham and Wild Justice, trying to reduce the number of game birds released in the UK was a bit of a worry but ultimately the right ruling was made.
Looking at the wider picture, something that is so often overlooked by the antis and the opposition, the impact of releasing fewer or no game birds would be catastrophic for the countryside’s economy. Billions of pounds are spent on game birds, clothing, cartridges, guns, jobs, housing, accommodation, dogs and so much more. If shooting was reduced or banned, rural employment would drop massively – at a time when jobs are at their most sacred!
Following COVID, what are your predictions for the remainder of this season and for the 2021/22 season?
Having spoken to a number of high-profile people in the industry, there is one of two things going to happen, either pulling the plug or an increase in days – with the later looking increasingly likely.
I know a number of shoots that have moved all of their November days to December and January, theoretically meaning they shouldn’t lose out. Many shoots are also looking at increasing the number of days next season in order to make up for any losses that occur this season. I’d say around three-quarters of people I have spoken to have hinted at putting more birds down next year.
The general outlook for the 2020/21 season is positive. Those who decided not to shoot this year have missed it terribly, so I think next season could be one of the biggest and most enjoyable yet – particularly once the vaccine is being widely distributed. However, this season isn’t over yet, we still have two good months left and I’m looking forward to getting out in the field.