Bird seed project takes flight in Oxford

Harvey Sayce of Ross-on-Wye was one of two innovative entrepreneurs who presented their ideas for farming to an expert panel at the Real Oxford Farming Conference.


Every year in January, Oxford is inundated by farmers flocking to the two annual conferences which are now held there. It’s an opportunity to discuss existing challenges and set the new agenda for the coming year.


This year, the RSPB hosted a session at the Real Oxford Farming Conference for the first time. More than 100 people packed the room to hear from Harvey Sayce from Feathered Friends (a wildlife-friendly bird food business) and Stephen Briggs, an agroforester who farms in Cambridgeshire.


The panel members had a wealth of farming, retail and wildlife knowledge and included Tom Macmillan, Director of innovation at the Soil Association, Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive at Leaf, Simon Lyster Non-Executive Director at Natural England, Naomi Oakley Principal Specialist  at Natural England and Pasture Fed Farmer, and Johnathan Sutton, Head of Agronomy and Technical Manager for all fresh produce at Marks and Spencer.


Harvey’s business developed out of an interest in feeding garden birds but quickly led to an interest in the sustainability of bird food. He has ambitions to grow his own organic bird food and expand this niche area.


The panel advised on communication, marketing and possible routes for funding as well as looking at how other farmers might be engaged to take part in similar projects. One of the challenges for Harvey will be satisfying the two sets of customers that he has – the people who buy his seed and the birds who eat it.


Harvey and Dennis Humble from EnviroAbility described the work they are doing to grow and sell bird seed in a sustainable way. Their presentation was well received and won the support of many of those present.