AS part of its commitment to strengthening the local and everyday economies of Wales, the Welsh Government is funding an innovative project that will see food being produced sustainably in the heart of four communities across Wales.
The news comes as the Welsh Government publishes its new Foundational Delivery Plan which sets out how it will develop plans to nurture and strengthen Wales’ everyday economy over the coming years.
The Foundational Economy supports the jobs at the heart of our local communities, across sectors such as care and health services, food, housing, energy, tourism, construction and retail. This part of the economy is estimated to account for four jobs in every ten and £1 in every £3 spent.
The Welsh Government has already invested a total of £4.5 million in this area of the economy through its Foundational Economy Challenge Fund, which is supporting 52 projects that are testing new and innovative ways of making the everyday economy work better for all communities in Wales. It is also allocating an additional £3m to support the Foundational Economy in the next financial year and is working with partners to agree the detail of how this money will be spent.
As part of its commitment to the everyday economy, the Welsh Government wants to see more money being spent locally and retained with Welsh communities.
The sustainable food production project, Crop Cycle, is one of the 52 projects and will bring together community, businesses and local public sector organisations to introduce environmentally-friendly food growth schemes.
Crop Cycle, which has received £481,000 from the Fund, will use science and technology through Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) to perfect plant production. The food and plants produced will be sold locally, some of it to buyers within meters of where it is produced.
The pilot project, which is being led by registered charity Social Farms & Gardens with support from CEA special interest group NutriWales, could be rolled out across the rest of Wales if successful.
Four agri-tech businesses, Digital Farming Ltd, LettUs Grow, Grow Stack and Farm Urban, are also supporting the project at the four community sites. These are Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran, Welcome To Our Woods in Treherbert, Xplore! Science Discovery Centre in Wrexham, and a final one with Cultivate, in Newtown, Powys.
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters, said: “We often think that the economy is just about money, when it’s also about the homes we live in, the energy we use and the food we eat.
“Bolstering local food supply is a key focus for this Welsh Government and this project offers a modern approach to truly sustainable food growing. To date approaches to CEA have been vastly different and largely unsupported. Through this unique pilot we will offer real growth potential at a scale that is impactful, replicable and delivers tangible benefits for the four communities involved.
“We have recently published our new Foundational Delivery Plan to provide a blueprint so that future government activity uses all policy and delivery levers available to strengthen the crucial Foundational sectors. We are working hard to support this part of the economy to ensure that everybody has access to basic essential goods and services within this part of the economy, that the people delivering them are properly valued and that where possible our public services can procure more goods such as food locally .
Ian Thomas, from Welcome To Our Woods, said: “Work is progressing well on the growing facility in Treherbert and we are excited to be bringing such an innovative and progressive project to our local high street. We have already been engaging with the Upper Rhondda community to explore the projects that actively use our woodlands for the benefit of those they surround, and initiatives such as this help give local people an idea of what can be achieved.”
Gary Mitchell, Wales manager for Social Farms & Gardens, said: “We are excited to be running the pilot project across a diverse set of sites to gain insight and further knowledge into how new agricultural systems can successfully support communities in delivering local, fresh and nutritious foods as well as important social benefits in a sustainable manner.”
Dr Gareth Jones, CEO of Digital Farming, which is based in Wales, said: “We were delighted to be awarded this project and have been enjoying working with the teams at Social Farms & Gardens, Greenmeadow Farm and Cultivate to bring together a new concept to explore the business of growing locally using Controlled Environment Agriculture to enhance nutrition for communities.”
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