Ewan Irvine and Emma Gray

2022 Digital Innovator of the Year and 2022 Diversification of the Year (small/medium)

Ardros Farms,
Sheepdog School,
Argyll and Bute

DELIVERING working dog tutorials online is a niche business idea that has outperformed expectations for sheepdog trainers Ewan Irvine and Emma Gray. Having budgeted for 100 subscribers, such was the appetite for the service, they doubled their target in the first month alone, 80 per cent of which they have retained.

The couple had been farming in a remotes part of Northumberland when they first established a school for training working dogs and for running courses for owners. They nurtured the idea of extending that service to people who were distant from the farm but, with no internet or phone line, they were unable to progress their idea. Gaining a 20-year tenancy on a 283 hectare (700-acre) unit on the Isle of Bute changed that, giving them access to the 4G network and the chance to connect to an audience across the world. The online tutorials, which Ewan and Emma produce themselves, are a team effort. Emma provides her experience and knowledge of training working dogs, while Ewan films and records sound. Their offering has proved so popular, it generates half the farm income. Emma says: “In terms of return on investment this is the most profitable enterprise on-farm”

The original target was 100 subscribers to cover the start-up costs and to provide a year-round regular income for the farm. They now boast more than 650 subscribers, almost all of who are farmers and shepherds with 85 per cent based in the UK and others signing up from countries as remote as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Ewan and Emma are using their own social media to raise awareness and have amassed nearly 60,000 Instagram. Ewan says: “We are proud to be providing a service for others in the agriculture industry.” They also breed Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers, diversifying into this breed because they had so many approaches from people wanting to buy border collies as pets. “We feel the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever is a better fit for active pet homes,” says Emma.


  • 650+ subscribers to online dog training
  • Subscribers as far afield as New Zealand and Australia
  • 60,000 Instagram followers

What the judges said:

“The panel felt that Sheepdog School was a unique and dynamic idea that was truly innovative in their chosen field. They felt the platform was accessible to a wide audience and the couple had thought about and delivered their idea to a high standard. Having successfully launched the platform, they demonstrated that they had a good handle on their who their target audience were and were continually thinking ahead to developing it further and had several ideas on how to elevate it to the next level.”

On winning, Emma and Ewan said: 

“Emma – Social media is crucial to our business, it’s a way to access worldwide markets and give everyone access to what we do.
Ewan – Farming is changing so we are selling our story of hope. We are so psyched for the future of farming and social media helps us to sell that story to the public. These awards are shouting about what the industry is doing and telling good news stories. “