Wales' environment is one of the nation's key assets. Protecting it for future generations and ensuring humans live more harmoniously with the natural world is crucial if we are to build a more sustainable economy.

One business (in fact, a community benefit society) in Pembrokeshire – arguably the most famous of Wales' much-loved coastal regions – is looking to reset how we use the sea as a resource for food, biofertilisers for Welsh farmers and bioplastics for the food packaging sector.

That business, Câr-y-Môr, has been supported through 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.


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Here, Owen Haines of Câr-y-Môr explains the business' story and offers advice for other business owners seeking to balance people and the planet with profit.


Tell us about Câr-y-Môr
We're a registered community benefit society. That means, as you might expect, we exist for our community's benefit – we are owned by our members and all profits go back into the business. Our purpose is to enrich society and the environment. At the heart of our operation is the aim to improve the coastal environment and the well-being of our community. It's all about sustainability – sustainable ocean farming and sustainable local jobs. We all know there's a nature crisis right now; we need to find more ways to farm sustainably and respect the environment and the traditions and needs of local people. That's the driving force behind our organisation, to mitigate the impact of and bring attention to climate change.

I never set out to do this - I just wanted to carry on my life-long passion of fish farming and do something about the tragedy of how we have abused our incredible planet. Câr-Y-Môr aims to get the seaweed and shellfish sector kick-started in Wales, and to see if this can grow into a financially and environmentally sustainable business. We operate out of a smallholding about a mile from St David's in Pembrokeshire, with beautiful views of St Bride's Bay.


We want to motivate and inspire others. Our zero-input farming uses no fertiliser, pesticides, or freshwater. Our recent endeavours have resulted in three crucial light bulb moments:


  1. There are a growing number of people from all walks of life who wish to feel empowered that we all can start to do something today to safeguard our planet for future generations. They hear about Câr-Y-Môr and see it as an opportunity to get involved because it’s a community business they have an equal share in.
  2. The key to our holy grail of commercial viability is uniting with Welsh agriculture by producing biofertilisers and bioplastics with our earthshot prize investor Notpla. The development of our seaweed food products will then be the icing on the cake.


  1. The key is to get our running cost covered for the next three years, including the cost of our 12-person team who are working hard to deliver the potential we have identified.


It must be noted that we are built on volunteers - this is to be celebrated. In addition to the 12 people working for us now, with have another 15 volunteering, equating to around 150 hours per week. As a community benefit society, we had seven original members, and that's now grown to 220 members. It just goes to show how it's snowballed as an idea.

We're privileged in Wales to enjoy such a beautiful coastline. Here in Pembrokeshire, that coastline is a national park, a mark of the area's uniqueness. The wildlife, scenery, and communities that have existed here for centuries are all things we as a nation should cherish, nurture, and protect. Part of the solution is an organisation like ours, working in partnership with communities and bringing sustainable solutions to Wales's agriculture and fishing and environmental needs.



What are your proudest moments in business so far?
We are privileged and continually humbled by our biggest asset – our members. They have joined because they want to be involved - they want to do something positive now to help the planet. The potential of community benefit societies is huge but the key is continual engagement and people realising we can and need to act now. That we now have 220 members illustrates what you can do and how important these things can be to people. It's been a privilege to work with so many people who prioritise improving the community over private gain.


What challenges have you faced in business
There were plenty of barriers as we started out. One of those was understanding the complexity of what we were doing and how we could garner support from many diverse stakeholders. Being able to identify and apply successfully for finance and grants was an early issue for us. Our Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme relationship manager has been instrumental in helping us secure significant capital and working capital grants to become established.

Another challenge was securing the marine licence to start the sea farm, located near St Justinian's, about 1.5 miles from St David's. Short-term licences are in place, and we're gaining traction and credibility, so we're looking to scale further. We're working closely with organisations like Natural Resources Wales and others to achieve the necessary consent.


If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
I think we'd concentrate on funding applications earlier. There's so much support out there. We now have the help we need to access that support. That's thanks to the Business Wales AGP, which has provided us with the kind of expertise we didn't know was there or even needed!


How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We've had so much support from the Business Wales AGP, and it's been an enormous help as we've sought to evolve the business. The relationship management and mentoring have been of such benefit; it's kept us on the right path and signposted us to other schemes and initiatives which might help our company. We can link our job growth to the programme, and the Business Wales AGP has helped us in many areas. We've received support with grants, data sharing and storage, accessing finance, public relations and business planning. It's amazing that we can access such depth and breadth of expert support.


What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?

  • Get involved with a business support programme such as Business Wales AGP as early as possible.
  • Be clear on your vision and what you stand for. Then, create a realistic strategy and plan that clearly communicates what you are trying to do.
  • Stick to the plan if you can, but remain opportunistic – which gets harder as you get bigger.
  • Surround yourself with people who have the same ethos as you.
  • Build your resilience for when things don't go according to plan!

To learn more about Câr-y-Môr, visit here.

Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme



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The Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme is a pan-Wales programme part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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