£35,028.19 FUNDED

Burly Bed

CB and JBS Button

The installation of a bale breaker and shredder into the existing production line for the processing of Miscanthus into horse bedding.

Opportunity for an innovative income stream

In 2002, James Mutton, a 4th-generation farmer at Burlerrow Farm, Bodmin, spotted an opportunity to gain an income stream from planting Miscanthus in some of his fields.

Commonly known as Elephant Grass, Miscanthus is a high-yielding energy crop that grows over three metres tall, resembles bamboo and produces an annual yield without the need for replanting.

The rapid growth, low mineral content and high-biomass yield of Miscanthus increasingly make it a favourite choice as a biofuel, outperforming maize and other alternatives.

Originally, James produced the crop to yield roots that could be sold on to other growers for seed multiplication; however, the company purchasing the crop went into administration, forcing him to look at alternative uses, and after extensive research he found that Miscanthus has unique moisture-absorbing properties due to its spongy inner core: it can absorb up to three times its own weight in moisture, making it ideal for horse bedding.

A thriving biofuel and animal-bedding business
Fast-forward to 2017, and what started as a farm diversification project had become a thriving biofuel and animal-bedding business. Sales have since doubled, and the farm is branching out into logs made from the compressed dust that is extracted during processing, and that can be used for woodburners or barbecues. The farm has 120 acres of Miscanthus, and there are another 400 acres grown across Cornwall that produce crop for Burlybed.

A small amount of the crop is used for energy: there are two biomass boilers on the farm that provide heat and hot water to various buildings.

Burlybed supplies retailers, wholesalers and large equine yards across the UK.

Although there are other competitors, Burlybed is a unique product due to the way it is harvested and processed. Miscanthus is natural, carbon-neutral and rots like straw, so can be put back onto the fields.

LEADER funding enables expansion
When the harvested bales of Miscanthus were ready to be processed, James had to hire a machine to process the bales into bedding, which was expensive and time-consuming.

A LEADER grant secured through the Atlantic and Moor Local Action Group enabled the farm to add a specific shredding system into the processing line.

“The machine has cut labour time, reduced the dust and noise going into the atmosphere and improved our saleable product. It has enabled us to expand and we are looking at the next stage of expansion, so it’s been a stepping-stone. We are now targeting big equine yards and larger retailers,” James says.

The machine has also led to increased staff hours and the recruitment of a marketing assistant to drive forward the expansion.

James buys some Miscanthus from outside Cornwall; however, thanks to the new machine, which has been running since February 2017, stock levels are building, and the aim is to eventually produce the entire crop within the county.

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