Alistair Moores-Pitt has spent the last three and a half years growing his free-range poultry business, and the efforts are paying off at the Pietermaritzburg- and Eston-based Moores-Pitt Premium Poultry (MPPP).
Moores-Pitt graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Management at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus in 2014. The son of an entrepreneur, he was keen to make some pocket money while finishing off his studies. He rented space on his parents’ property and invested his savings into building a chicken house and buying fifty chicks, which he aimed to raise and sell live locally. He sold half live, the remainder sold as free-range meat among acquaintances. The product’s quality quickly made the chickens a hit, and Moores-Pitt upped production.
Fast forward a few years, and MPPP is producing 1400 free-range birds a week at two sites, supplying sixteen Super Spars and other retailers, and ten restaurants from Nottingham Road to Salt Rock, and employing six people to run its business, from poultry management to transport to book-keeping.
Just over a year ago, Mark Stiebel, who had spent time farming in North America, joined MPPP. Stiebel helped Moores-Pitt expand operations onto his family’s farm in Eston, which Stiebel runs with his farm manager while managing the logistics and deliveries at MPPP.
Moores-Pitt’s entrepreneurial journey involved trial and error, and taking initiative to push the business forward even when told it was a ‘crazy’ idea. MPPP prides itself on producing a premium quality brine-, hormone- and additive-free bird. He states that being free-range helps the birds’ health and well-being.
Raising the birds comes with challenges; Moores-Pitt discovered that it is more science than husbandry that is required. He has had to overcome the threat of disease and improve growth, and work to convince supermarkets to sell his product.
Moores-Pitt encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to start small, be patient, and have confidence in themselves and their work. His own business involved starting slowly with a pilot project, using what he had, and building the market with the business. Word-of-mouth has been invaluable, as has his commitment to biosecurity, maintaining quality and using reliable suppliers.
Moores-Pitt was grateful for the broad training offered by his degree, and added that there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Mentorship from businesspeople has also been key; his participation in a Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business competition recently introduced him to local businesspeople who have offered guidance.
Stiebel and Moores-Pitt have become businesspeople as well as farmers, and selling the product is harder than growing it, says Moores-Pitt. The best advice he has received is to enjoy the problem solving, and to do something daily, if possible, to improve the business.
‘As a farmer there are going to be problems every single day,’ said Moores-Pitt, ‘so enjoy fixing the problems instead of letting them get on top of you.’
Looking to the future, Moores-Pitt said if his dreams did not scare him, they would not be big enough. He hopes MPPP will expand to 10 000 birds a week and increase its geographical reach.
Words by: Christine Cuénod
photograph by: Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business