David Shelton

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Anyone who dismisses David Shelton as yet another wealthy businessman who has bought-up land has not heard his agricultural backstory.

He maybe the man who set up, floated and then sold car retail giant Motorpoint, but he is also a fourthgeneration farmer.

After studying agriculture at Harper Adams University, he had every intention of following in his father’s footsteps on the family’s traditional 81-hectare (200-acre) mixed farm in Nottinghamshire. But, with the farm becoming less viable, David had to look away from the farm which saw him venturing to Saudi Arabia, to set up the franchise for John Deere, with satellite workshops, spares and sales to provide and service the machinery
needed to make farming in this part of the world possible.

When the contract with John Deere came to an end, he returned to the UK and moved into property and the car industry. Running alongside was the development of his own farm, keeping Longhorns and acquiring land to total 1,072ha (2,650 acres).

It is run on mixed farming principles, just a larger scale than the Sheltons had previously practiced, including 900-head of finishing beef, 230,000 chickens, 2,000 B&B pigs along with arable consisting of a mixture of crops and a solar field.

David joined the Morrisons Net Zero programme in 2021, which includes measuring the farm’s carbon footprint and looking towards reducing the level of emissions overall, while improving the sequestration and environmental credentials.

David is also very conscious of the need to improve his soil health and has put a focus on farming regeneratively. He uses cover cropping and herbal leys to improve his silage.

The beef enterprise markets cattle deadweight into Woodhead Bros. David invested in roundhouse cattle buildings with a handling system. The investment has allowed for cattle to be finished in an environment with clean air, reducing pneumonia and allowing for safer handling.

The pig enterprise, which was entered into in 2022, produces manure which is used on the arable land, reducing the level of bought-in nitrogen inputs.

The arable enterprise is at the heart of the circular farming system David has created, maximising the outputs from farming livestock to improve the soil through high organic matter inputs from manure.

Recently, David has entered into a joint aquaponics venture, involving brown trout kept in tanks in polytunnels and the water being used to water salad and vegetable crops growing below.

On winning, David said

“It’s unbelievable to be standing here tonight with this trophy in my hand. I’m utterly chuffed to bits. We all have a duty to protect the countryside especially with the current challenges within climate change. British agriculture can do so much to help achieve bigger and more positive goals in tackling climate change.”

What the Judges said

David Shelton’s business is a truly mixed enterprise with strategic thinking and decision making as its core. A Harper Adams graduate who left the agricultural sector to work as a car dealer before returning in 2012 with capital to invest in his true passion, he has since built up a profitable business which spreads risk by operating across several sectors in livestock – beef, pigs and poultry and arable.

Collecting and measuring data is central to his success, with David not opposed to trying new things but analysing the outcomes meticulously. The use of technology, including solar panels to power a new grain store and dryer; vertical farming using dirty water from brown trout production to feed salad crops; use of software such as Cattle Manager and John Deere Data Manager to record and interpret data; and management practices such as controlled traffic farming to minimise soil disturbance, shows David takes a holistic approach to sustainability. While each part of his business is very different, sustainability is a key theme which runs throughout. He is in the top 10 per cent of Morrisons producers producing beef with the lowest carbon footprint and sees net zero as an achievable target through the scale and set up of his sizeable operation.

The judges said David will be a good ambassador for the British Farming Awards and believe he will use the platform to talk to other farmers and offer valuable advice and encouragement, whatever stage they are at on their farming journey.