As we move to an energy sector increasingly using renewables, there might also be opportunities to enhance and safeguard our natural world too.
That’s what a Pembrokeshire business leader is hoping to develop as he leads research into offshore energy production and how it can safeguard native plant and animal life. Jonathan Williams has been working with the Green Growth Accelerator to research his ideas.
The Green Growth Accelerator was designed to help businesses to develop green, innovative ideas that would help to address the particular net zero challenges that we are facing as a nation.
The Green Growth Accelerator is part of the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP). The AGP provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Serial food and drink entrepreneur and passionate environmentalist, Jonathan Williams, gives an overview of his business, why sustainability matters so much and how the support he’s been given has aided his company’s green goals.
Tell us about Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company
I guess a good place to start is with a bit of my background. I suppose you could call me a serial food and drink entrepreneur. I’m from Pembrokeshire, I’m a trained chef and I have an MSc in environmental sciences. Not only that, I love surfing and at my core is a passion for the sea and the coastal environment – being from Pembrokeshire, how could I not be?
Fortunately, I’ve been able to sync my passions and my interests with my work. One of my businesses, the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company, supplies native ingredients harvested from the Welsh coast and sea to other firms.
All this has led me to look at how we can exploit the changes we’re making to our offshore landscapes as we develop more and more renewable energy production out at sea. Working with the Green Growth Accelerator has been pivotal to our work in this area.
What’s your latest project all about?
I wanted to develop something which would make the drive for renewables sustainable, something that would safeguard sea life and seaweeds, crustaceans, molluscs – what you might call aquaculture – on the basis that they are massive carbon sequesters.
We can massively harness the opportunities being created by the drive for offshore energy by encouraging native species of molluscs and other animals and plant life to use them as a habitat. This in turn can help capture carbon, which is obviously so crucial in helping to find solutions to climate change.
These new structures actually enhance or create places for the growth of indigenous species. We can safeguard and create habitats that are not harvested but are left to grow and prosper, thus creating a blue carbon approach which massively sequesters carbon. The simple end game is to enhance the pure health of the sea.
How has the Green Growth Accelerator helped your business?
Through our work with AGP we’ve been awarded £21,000 for our research project, which has a total cost of around £31,000. We’ve commissioned a specialist study to identify and speak to stakeholders involved with commercial development of the sea environment on the west Wales coast.
This has led to some exciting developments, and an organisation called the Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum has been commissioned to undertake this study to assess the views and current thinking of those involved with such offshore and coastal projects. Those consulted include businesses, developers, Crown Estates and the public sector.
The project remit was also to help identify future potential project funders (blue marine funding) for its next stages. Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum will be completing its study at the end of June.
The next project stages will involve the design (and IP protection) of appropriate systems to safeguard/create natural sea based eco systems. These will initially be trialled in the proposed Marine Energy Test Area, which is already identified and being developed off the Pembrokeshire coast.
We’ve also got a complementary study being run by the Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE), which is carrying out a major literature review into this area – required as due diligence to help identify and attract future project funding. This review is looking into what is in existence already, as well as what is being proposed and incorporates the science, benefits and ideas and opportunities.
The Green SMART grant funding award is critically important in helping me to objectively understand the thinking and actions of those intent on harnessing the power of the sea in the form of renewable energy and how their activities may be capitalised upon to do so in a benign and sustainable way.
This phase of the project has to be right and provide accurate information which will heavily influence subsequent project stages. We are really looking forward to progressing this important work, and we are incredibly grateful to the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme for its support.
To learn more about the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company visit here.
Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme
The Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme is a pan-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.