Proud Farm was established at the end of 2018 as an official group of farmers, with the aim of developing new technologies for dairy sheep and goat farming and creating alternative business models for the entry of young people into this field.
From the very beginning, it was evident that the project is based on the values of sustainable development that equally respects the environment and the human factor. This can be proved by the insightful programme (Proud Life) launched in co-operation with the City of Athens Solidarity Center, offering employment in selected livestock enterprises for those residing at the Multipurpose Homeless Centre.
Meeting the Network
In 2020, the co-founder of the Proud Farm Group of Farmers Nikos Koltsidas comes into contact with the executives of the Enterprise Europe Network in ANKO Western Macedonia in order to discuss the needs and priorities of the company, its investment plans and seek support in the use of financial tools.
The company's interest was focused, first of all, on the possibility of utilizing the SME Instrument, the EU financial mechanism that supports innovative and pioneering products and services at European level.
‘It was clear at full length that the members of the company share significant knowledge from the field, and they are also aware of the technologies applied in the industry’, says the head of the Enterprise Europe Network at ANKO Liana Papaterpou. ‘At the same time, they monitor international trends and applications regarding the development of by-products of sheep and goat farming, which allows them to create conditions for the production of new innovative products and services, and take advantage of international networking opportunities.’
Announcing the world's first ‘Breeders' Incubator’, the Proud Farm Group of Farmers aspires to reverse the current economic conditions of entering the industry, highlighting a model that could provide feedback and sustain producers with the minimum possible capital, and support them in the first three critical years of their activity.
Additionally, working with the University of Western Macedonia, they aim to develop a ‘smart’ full-food production unit and, in collaboration with the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and other research bodies, an early diagnostic system of diseases in sheep and goats.
Evidently, to meet all these objectives, not only financial resources are required but also significant networking that will allow them to evolve the original ideas and optimize new innovative products.
The knowledge and expertise of the Enterprise Europe Network executives at ANKO in the fields of networking and EU funding was the initial ground for the co-operation. Furthermore, the company was informed about all the services provided by the Enterprise Europe Network and the starting point for a targeted collaboration was established.
A good partner on the business journey
In December 2020, the company was invited by EEN/ANKO to actively participate in an online Futures Literacy Lab for the citizens of Kozani, Greece, on the topic: ‘The City of Kozani in 2040’, co-organised by the UNESCO Chair for Foresight, PRAXI Network, EEN/ANKO and ‘C4SDGRows’ Research Group of the School of Journalism and Mass Media Studies at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
The event was realized within the framework of the Futures Literacy across the Deep Demonstrations Project (FLxDeep), funded by the EIT Climate-KIC, in the context of the Deep Demonstration Programme on Just Transformations.
The region of Western Macedonia is currently undergoing a period of radical change and of critical challenges, particularly due to the process of transition to the post lignite era.
Participants, including the Proud Farm Group of Farmers, were invited to propose ideas that can creatively contribute to the significant regional challenges for the urgent transformation of its production model.
In January 2021, the head of the Enterprise Europe Network at ANKO informed the company about the ‘Ideas Powered for Business SME Fund’ programme, a grant scheme designed to help EU small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) intellectual property (IP) rights. More specifically the programme provides SMEs with Intellectual Property Vouchers in order to help them develop their strategies on Intellectual Property issues, encourage them to protect their rights at national, regional or community level and derive economic benefit from their protection.
By maintaining regular communication with EEN/ANKO, the company applied after having previously urged by the EEN manager to attend the EUIPO's webinar ‘Power your business with the SME Fund Helping EU SMEs reach their full intellectual property potential’ to avoid mistakes in submission.
The application and evaluation process were successfully completed and, in October 2021, the company obtained a European Certificate of Registration for its trademark.
‘The European registration of a trademark gives you the freedom and confidence to build a strong brand name on solid ground’, states the co-founder of Proud Farm Group of Farmers Nikos Koltsidas, while publicly expressing his compliments to ANKO and the Enterprise Europe Network for the support.
In the spring of 2021, the company is informed by EEN/ANKO about the establishment of the ‘Elevate Greece’ start-up registry, an initiative of the Greek Government that aimed to map, for the first time, all start-ups in the country and support their growth, with the ultimate goal of highlighting a strong innovation ecosystem. With the guidance of the executives of the Enterprise Europe Network the company applies, and in July 2021 it becomes the first start-up from the region of Western Macedonia to be registered in the digital platform. Serving as a gateway, ELEVATE GREECE is a leading resource for in-depth information about the Greek Startup Ecosystem
In July 2021, the company contacts the head of the Enterprise Europe Network at ANKO asking for help in the search for a tannery in the area so as to make use of animal skin to create a new innovative product and enter a new market. Through EEN/ANKO it comes into contact with the largest ecological finishing and dyeing plant in the region of Western Macedonia (DTS Group, Kastoria) and a pilot processing test of the product is carried out. The two companies agree to co-operate in the production of a finished product as soon as the financing that will allow them to procure the necessary equipment is secured.
In November 2022, the company completes the European registration of the trademark and a new product called ‘Fertiwool’, a biofertilizer produced from 100% sheep's wool. Producing significant results, the innovative nutritional product is a 100% biofertilizer that can have many uses, from floriculture to horticulture and tree crops. For the development of this product at the level of guidance and research, the Proud Farm Group of Farmers collaborated with the Mediterranean Agri-food Competence Centre in Heraklion (MACC) Crete and a specialised technical advisor on wool use issues through the European Wool Exchange.
During the development of the new product and the business as a whole, the co-founder of the Proud Farm Group of Farmers keeps direct communication with EEN/ANKO manager so as to make use of funding programmes and networking tools.
Building tomorrow step by step
The future plans of the company include the processing of sheep and goat milk produced and collected for the fresh milk and yogurt market, the creation of a unit of innovative nutritional supplements for sheep and goats, the certification of the livestock business management model applied to its farms and the creation of a network of animal husbandry experts for the provision of support and livestock management services.
The intention of the members of the Proud Farm Group of Farmers is to invest in wool fertiliser and into this context they have gathered offers for the construction of a production unit in Kozani, with a production capacity of 2 tons of biofertilizer per day. The aim is to submit a 500,000 € investment plan to the national Development Law reckoning for the plant to be ready by the end of 2023.
The company has already received approvals for investment and research programmes such as for the ‘Development of facilities and equipment of a model incubator for sheep and goat farming’ through the Development Law, for the ‘Design & Development of an Incubator for Dairy Sheep and Goat Farming’ through the European Innovation Clusters and for the development of an ‘Integrated System for the Calculation of Livestock Income’ through the Innovation Clusters.
On this journey...
ANKO and the Enterprise Europe Network are constantly by their side in every challenge, every new idea, every need.