It was announced that Ellie Sinclair (23) from VegCo based in Ellon, in Aberdeenshire, has won third place in the 2018 NFU Mutual and Scotland Food and Drink “Inspirational Young Person Award”.

Ellie, who launched her business in January 2016 said: “I was selling my products at Blair Athol Horse Trials when I got the call. I didn’t know I had even been nominated, so to be told I had won came as a huge surprise.”

VegCo produces a range of tomato and chilli-based jams and sauces using the produce Ellie grows in her greenhouse on her parents 800-acre farm in Udny, Ellon.

The business idea came when Ellie’s father Magnus, currently up for the Farmer’s Weekly ‘Contractor of the Year’ Award, challenged her, in late 2015, to come up with an idea to use some of the renewable energy produced at the farm – and to help diversify the family business.

The Anaerobic Digester uses grass harvested from the farm and produces 500kw of power per hour which goes into the National Grid. With the average house-hold using 3000kw of power per year, the Sinclair’s ‘Concrete Cow’ is an efficient and effective supplier.

Ellie, whose passion for local artisan food and produce was further inspired by working with local entrepreneur and chef John Cooper, at Formartine’s in Tarves, Ellon, during her time studying Media at Robert Gordon’s University as well as a stint at BrewDog in Ellon, explained: “I wanted to do something different – something with food as well as something that complemented and enhanced our family business.”

Ellie said: “The idea I came up with was to use some of the energy (50kw per hour) to heat and light the greenhouse with 600w lights, built within one of the farm sheds, and to grow tomatoes and chilies all year round. The plants could be planted right into the soil within the greenhouse which is protected by the larger shed. We trialed it and the conditions proved to be perfect.”

The crops thrived, and Ellie developed a range of chilli and tomato-based jams and sauces. Since launch in January 2016 both Ellie and her business have thrived and grown rapidly. “Becoming an artisan food producer based on the family farm, using the output from the biogas plant and helping diversify the business feels like a completion of the circle. I am able to do something that I love and contribute to the sustainability of the family business.” says Ellie.

Last year (2017) Ellie was asked to join the ONE (Opportunity North East) 2017 Group, which she feels contributed to her success. “The ONE initiative and people involved were a huge support in helping me get the business up and going.” This year, Ellie has helped launch the 2018 Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight which runs from 1 to 16 September and is a Young Ambassador for Scotland Food & Drink.

Currently Ellie is finishing the summer food and drink show circuit selling her jams and sauce while planning the autumn and Christmas events which start at the end of October. For the next month she will be cooking and bottling ready for the busy period ahead, as well as launching her 2018 seasonal Christmas sauce at the end of October.

The list of events Ellie attends is posted on their Facebook page and the range can also be found in farm shops and delis (currently in 26 locations throughout Scotland). They also supply local hotels and restaurant with tomatoes and sauces and jams across Scotland.

On top of this, plans are in progress for expansion. A production kitchen is planned as well as expansion of the greenhouse, which is currently located in part of one of the large farm sheds, to a 300 per cent larger structure which will take up the majority of the shed floor. Hydroponic growing methods are also being investigated to enable vertical planting to increase production as well as an extension to the range of crops.

Ellie said: “We are also at the stage that I need more than the part time help I have right now to look after all the plants. With the new kitchen and larger greenhouse in the pipeline we are very excited about the year ahead and the possibilities for VegCo going forward.”

Ellie concluded: “What started out as an experiment to try and grow some chillies back in 2015 has grown into an awesome enterprise – producing jams and sauces from sustainable green energy!”


PHOTOS: 1, 2, 3 & 4: Ellie Sinclair in the Greenhouse and 5: VegCo Sweet Chilli Jam

PHOTO CREDIT: Michal Wachucik, Abermedia

Contact: For more information please call Victoria Withy on 07795 118228 or 03333 443565 or email


1. For more information on VegCo: W:

2. The Sinclair’s family business is Sinclair Agricultural and Recycling Services and is based at Kinknockie Farm in Undy, Ellon, Aberdeenshire. It is an 800-acre arable farm with 400 acres in trees and the rest in silage. 3. For more information on Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2018 see: W:

4. For more information on the NFU Mutual and Scotland Food & Drink Award see: W: