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Roundtable Report – Food, Farming, Waste & Biobased | 4theRegion

BIOBASED SECTOR ROUNDTABLE
THURSDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER 2019
NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDEN OF WALES

A well attended roundtable meeting was held in Carmarthenshire to explore the food, farming, waste and biobased sector in South West Wales. The goal of the event was to share knowledge about what’s already happening, identify what’s missing and co-create priorities for the sector from a regional perspective.  A diverse range of organisations came together for some lively, insightful discussion.

Emerging Themes

Collaboration / sharing

The importance of better collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources – this was THE key message from participants throughout the day.

  • Collaborating and sharing has an enormous number of benefits:
    • By understanding what each other’s businesses and needs are we see opportunities in:
      • each others waste, valuing materials and respecting their worth  
      • increasing ideas for Circular Economy principles
      • Open up research and areas for new innovative technologies
      • Understanding what works and what doesn’t work for others and learning from it 
    • This will also help us understand the skill sets that are needed for future jobs and courses in universities and colleges 
      • Ensuring a sustainable economy means recognising the high value jobs in this sector – engineers, biosciences
      • We also need to reinvest in traditional skills such as food growing and land management for regenerative agriculture
    • It will also help us to inform future policy and practice 
      • ONE VOICE – the importance of having a coherent and common message for the sector when talking to policy makers
    • There are benefits in sharing skills and workforce, such as apprentices, especially the value of shared apprenticeships 
      • Financial commitment for smaller organisations is shared
      • The apprentice gets experience, expertise from across the sector 
      • We can train more people

Sector Promotion

It came across from the feedback that although our region is hugely successful, innovative and a leader in the food, farming, waste and biobased economy, we’re quite shy about it too. All agreed we need to be better at promoting and celebrating what we have and what we do here, better at telling stories about our successes.

Key themes were:

  • Shouting,  publicising, showcasing, storytelling about our successes. To: 
    • improve perceptions of farmers and farming 
    • Improve awareness and confidence in what the region has to offer in this sector 
    • Showcase and celebrate that this region has all we need 
    • Be ambassadors for the wider sector –
    • not just promoting our own product, but doing so as part of a bigger story about the regional offer
    • A strong brand for regional produce, international recognition for the quality of the food produced in this region, differentiation.
  • Use social media, networks

Climate Emergency

Climate Emergency was a key theme.  All four local authorities in our region have declared a climate emergency.  Discussion ranged from whether agriculture is the problem or the solution, there is a defensiveness in farming communities who are perceived as the problem, but this reflects a division between urban and rural communities which was seen to be the root of some of the problems.  Farming, food production, land management – these are vital to the sustainability of our society and ecology.

This was a key theme – sustainability is not enough, we need to develop a circular, regenerative biobased economy

  • More people are now interested in the food and farming sector because of environmental concern
  • Food growing and land management is all about the Resilience of the region in the broadest sense
  • Reducing the distance that food travels, reducing its carbon footprint
  • Also ensuring we can feed our region if national and international supply chains are disrupted
  • Regenerative agriculture and the health of the soil
  • What are farms and farmers already doing, is there a need for more education
  • New forms of biofertilisers and other methods to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers
  • Reduce the use of plastics on farms
  • Could we link up farms with innovators to implement regenerative solutions, lead the way
  • Storytelling and marketing.  Connecting urban areas with rural food growing region, eg farm shops and markets in Swansea City Centre
    • Connect people to where their food comes from, people need to understand all the benefits and reasons to buy local/regional
    • Opportunity for people from urban areas to grown food and get involved, eg through community supported agriculture projects
  • Be wary of not romanticising the idea of food growing etc, this is also a key economic driver for our region, big business and jobs
  • Sustainability of farming has two meanings – a sustainable economy and a sustainable ecology
  • Circular economy practices are essential and must be at the heart of every conversation in this sector.

Joined Up Working

There was a sense that there are lots of positive things happening already across the region, how can we join them up and break down silos.

  • Silos exist across counties, we need to learn from each other
  • For example Pembrokeshire are leading in things that Swansea could learn from
  • Creating networks. For example do all the Community Supported Agriculture projects know each other?  
    • Community Land Trusts – could learn from each other and enable good ideas to spread by connecting subsectors
    • Industry – who is working in this space, eg engineering, controlled environment agriculture, biosciences, new bio fertilisers developed at Swansea Uni

One Voice

There was a unanimous feeling from the room that there needed to be One Voice/ one platform that could feed into Welsh Government to help steer policy and inform decision-making.  The biobased sector needs a coherent message for government, like a trade association that can present a shared set of priorities.

  • One voice also means a central/directory/map to encourage collaboration and make sure everyone knows who is doing what across the region;
  • one place where projects / opportunities were fed into and promoted to local supply chain, academia and encourage collaborative working
  • 4theRegion noted that we have an online regional supply chain Map that can visualise everything that is happening and show relationships between organisations, projects and individuals, it is ready to launch but would require sponsorship to ensure we can devote resources so that it would gain critical mass and industry take-up.  4theRegion are open to partners and support to develop this.

Other Ideas

  • More land management events to encourage cluster based thinking 
  • Improve food production practices – greener and healthier, healthier preservatives and greener packaging 
  • Not to duplicate the work that other organisations are already doing.  It was noted that PLANED have a number of very relevant projects which could be better supported and rolled out more widely.  Linking back to the message about knowing what support is out there and who is doing what.

Support

  • There was a lack of understanding and a need to understand what support was available: 
    • Financial, investment & funding 
    • Research
    • Start ups
    • Education support

Emerging Actions – What Next?

  • Each of us need to be Ambassadors for the wider sector – how can we achieve this?
  • Can 4theRegion be the body for this sector to use as One Voice: 
    • Bringing the sector together – networking, cluster groups, keeping in touch (even in an online portal)
    • Shouting and celebrating the successes and projects – through our newsletter (5000), social media – 10,000 twitter, 1600 LinkedIn, 4600 facebook 
    • Being the one voice to government
  • Identify the changemakers and start with them by inviting them to the next group session – people feed in names and ideas of key players to Zoe@4theRegion.com
  • Can 4theRegion, with partners such as BIC, PLANED etc, create a portal / index as a central regional source of information on who is doing what?  How can we fund the launch and management of this map / online portal.
  • What is the right platform to keep this conversation going?  A LinkedIn Group? A Facebook Group? Both?

Noted Organisations

  • ARCITEKBio Limited
  • Bee1
  • Beech Holidays
  • BIC Innovation
  • BioInnovation Wales
  • Business Wales
  • Castell Howell Foods Ltd
  • Digital Farming
  • EFT Consult
  • Food Centre Wales
  • KingShipp Sustainable Solutions
  • KN Consulting
  • PLANED
  • Regional Learning & Skills Partnership
  • Severn Wye
  • Swansea Council
  • Zero Waste Wales
  • The Waterside 
  • Fishguard Community Fridge
  • Building Resilience in Catchments (BRIC’s) – project PLANED
  • Pembrokeshire Sustainable Agriculture Network – PLANED 
  • Gower Meadow Beef – Conservation grade locally grazed beef
  • Narberth Community Fridge & council Orchard 
  • Dr. Beynon’s Bug Farm 
  • CIWM – Chartered Institute of Waste Managers 
  • Life seeker.wales – online newspaper & portal for sharing 
  • Youtree.uk
  • Cow Tan (Beef) – Conservation grazed co-operative run group on gower
  • Bio Innovation Wales – Distance learning courses geared around the circular economy) 
  • Future Foods – Under Nutri Wales, SiG’s – developing healthy farming 
  • Cae Tan C.S.A – Wales’s largest (?) CSA – soon to establish it’s second site on Gower 
  • Farm Co 
  • Terraffix – Gower Based land management/ land remediation  – Soil solutions 
  • Severn Wye – Sustainable communities/ fuel poverty 
  • Green Arising – biomass/sustainable agriculture projects enquiries@greenarisings.co.uk
  • Pembroke CIC – manage green hill farm – non-food production agriculture 
  • Welsh Valley Alpacas – prototyping new farming alpaca textiles (replacing polyester) 
  • Leader Supported projects – PLANED

Please share with your network!