Polycrub – Repurposing aquaculture waste to build food resilience globally

Polycrub is an award-winning Shetland-based social enterprise founded in 2007 that has developed highly durable polytunnel greenhouses by repurposing waste plastic and pipes from the local salmon aquaculture industry. Their modular growing structures enable resilient local food production even in the harshest maritime climates worldwide.


Polycrub’s social mission is to enable vulnerable remote communities to achieve self-sufficiency and food sustainability even as worsening storms and climate change threaten agriculture globally. The first Polycrubs were constructed on the Shetland Islands using discarded farmed salmon pipes creatively reused as framing, combined with hardy polycarbonate sheeting. This design creates wind-resistant growing spaces capable of withstanding the harsh conditions prevalent on Scotland’s northernmost Shetland Islands.

The Problem:

Seeking to replicate its social impact worldwide by exporting this innovative Scottish solution internationally poses considerable hurdles for a small island enterprise including:

  • The logistical difficulties and shipping costs associated with dispatching large, heavy polytunnel kits worldwide from a remote island base.
  • Greatly increased bureaucracy, documentation requirements and taxes resulting from Brexit trade policies.
  • Polycrub’s lack of experience navigating complex international freight, customs, tariffs and trade compliance processes.
  • Challenges with global marketing and demand forecasting for a niche agricultural product without brand recognition.
  • COVID and Brexit simultaneously exacerbating supply chain and staffing capacity pressures.

Without proactively addressing these challenges through collaboration, external support and guidance, Polycrub may have stalled as a local community initiative rather than achieving its global potential.

The Solution:

Polycrub tackled these barriers through flexible adaptation and leveraging creative community partnerships:

  • Local Shetland haulage companies and shipping firms offered invaluable advice on optimising dispatch logistics, freight processes and reducing supply chain costs.
  • Early international sales were facilitated through links with expatriate Shetland islanders living abroad in Canada and the Falklands.
  • Polycrub progressively upskilled internal teams in trade compliance requirements with tailored export guidance from Highlands & Islands Enterprise.
  • A direct-to-consumer sales model removes distributor markups helping reduce costs despite higher export expenses.
  • Innovations like DIY assembly kits made products more transportable.

This willingness to iteratively learn, leverage partnerships and adapt has enabled Polycrub to incrementally overcome initial hurdles to exporting its Scottish social innovation worldwide.

The Outcome:  

By proactively seeking solutions through community collaboration, Polycrub has successfully exported its protective growing structures to regions as diverse as New Zealand, the Caribbean, Sweden and France. Recent models have even proven hurricane-resilient for island schools.

Looking ahead, with further export-focused development assistance, this adaptive social enterprise is poised to help many more vulnerable global communities achieve climate resilience and food self-sufficiency in the 21st century through its durable growing spaces. Polycrub offers inspiration that sustainable global social impact is possible, even from the remotest of locations.

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