3 March 2020
More than 100 groups of farmers and foresters in Wales have expressed interest in investigating more efficient methods of working or introducing new technologies through a series of sector-specific projects funded by EIP (European Innovation Partnership) Wales.
Since the programme was launched in 2016, over 30 group applications for a diverse range of projects at locations throughout Wales have been approved and are now in progress. Lynfa Davies, Farming Connect’s knowledge exchange manager, who heads the EIP Wales programme for Farming Connect, says the project currently involves more than 150 farmers, foresters and horticulturalists actively engaged on EIP funded projects.
“I have been delighted with the number and calibre of applications received to date, which reflects the determination of those working in the industry to identify and implement new opportunities to improve efficiency and increase profitability at this critical time, as the industry prepares for the challenges and opportunities widely expected when we leave the EU.
“Taking into account the breadth and quality of applications we are currently processing, we are on course to deliver our target of 45 projects and are therefore not accepting any additional applications.
“The Knowledge Exchange Hub has been an important part of the EIP process, contributing advice, information and help with project design to the groups as they have developed their projects. This support will continue to be available and if farmers and foresters would like to access information on the latest research findings they can contact the Knowledge Exchange Hub through Farming Connect.” said Ms Davies.
One of the projects currently underway is investigating ways to add value to sheep, a main source of income for many businesses in Wales. In 2017, Alan Jones, a sheep farmer from Chwilog, near Pwllheli, who is now an approved Farming Connect mentor, joined a local Farming Connect Agrisgôp group led by Geraint Hughes. Mr. Hughes had invited a number of sheep farmers in his area to investigate ways of adding value to their sheep enterprises to help them prepare for the economically challenging and uncertain times they were all facing.
Alongside husbandry and nutritional issues, the group’s key focus was on managing dairy ewes for cheese production, which a number of group members achieved so successfully, Mr. Hughes encouraged them to take their investigations to the next level by seeking EIP Wales funding.
“From the promising start achieved by our Agrisgôp group, which led to a number of us starting to provide ewe’s milk to speciality cheese producers, we are now building on the knowledge gained, which we could never have tackled so successfully without the support of EIP Wales,” said Mr Jones.
The group were awarded the maximum amount of £40,000 over a two year period, which funded advice from a number of the UK’s top experts, enabling them to monitor the milk quality and improve the bacteriological profile of the sheep milk produced by each member.
“This means we have each been able to produce better quality ewes’ milk and as our collective vision is to be at the forefront of this emerging sector, we now believe we have a strong foundation in place and a production system which will help us tap into this rapidly expanding market,” said Mr. Jones.
Lynfa Davies was keen to emphasise that the breadth of topics now being investigated will have huge potential for the industry in Wales.
“All the information gathered will be shared through Farming Connect’s communication channels so that many other farmers, foresters and horticulturalists can benefit from EIP findings and learnings.
“The range of sectors and topics covered is very broad, from reducing antibiotics in sheep and assessing the potential of genomics testing in dairy herds to growing small scale organic asparagus and establishing new forests in land blighted by bracken,” said Ms. Davies.
Ms Davies added that although no new applications can currently be accepted for EIP Wales, a number of other Farming Connect services and projects offer support which encourages innovation, the introduction of new technologies and finding more efficient ways of working.
Those wishing to develop ideas to improve business performance can take advantage of advisory support, funded up to 80% for individuals or 100% for groups, from independent specialists. Access to advice on diversification projects and numerous sector-specific topics is also available through Farming Connect’s fully funded one-to-one mentoring programme.
For updates on EIP Wales projects completed or underway or for advice on all other support available through Farming Connect, click here.
EIP Wales, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.