For two years the Tech Tyfu pilot initiative – delivered by not-for-profit organisation Menter Mon – has worked with growers in Gwynedd and Anglesey to develop fresh micro greens using sustainable, water-based hydroponic methods.
Their success has seen the initiative Scale-Up to include more producers who will receive further advice and guidance, cutting-edge equipment and ongoing business and marketing support.
Promoting food tourism and strengthening the local supply chain in north west Wales, project officer David Wylie, based at M-SParc on Anglesey, says Tech Tyfu will give the agriculture sector a post-pandemic boost.
“We are delighted with the results and positive feedback received from the growers,” he said.
“They have demonstrated there is an appetite for tasty, fresh microgreens while securing sales from restaurants, independent stores and from consumers at food fairs and events.
“The next step is to open this up to more supply chains and measure success in other areas; along the way we will be exploring research and development opportunities and continuing to push the boundaries of innovation to highlight the benefits of vertical farming and open another channel for farmers, businesses, and the food industry to diversify.”
Vertical farming allows growers to control the environment of their crop, which improves water and nutrient use efficiency by up to an order of magnitude, as well as allowing growers to create the conditions necessary to grow out of season crops, reducing pressure on the food supply chain as well as transport, packaging, and refrigeration costs.
Among those taking part in the pilot project was Helen Bailey, director of Baileys and Partners chartered surveyors, based in Tyddyn Du, Llanbedr.
She and colleague Jodie Pritchard launched Tyfu’r Tyddyn Microgreens from a traditional stone barn at her Snowdonia home and have been heartened by the outcome having delivered to caterers, pubs, restaurants, and retail customers including the Old Cheese Market Deli in Harlech.
“We were aware of vertical farms in other areas of the UK so the opportunity to join the Tech Tyfu project was exciting and enabled us to show proof of concept to our customers, something we have a strong reputation for as a company,” said Helen.
“The topography and climate here in North Wales do not complement conventional growing methods. However, vertical farming in its controlled environment allows you to grow staples such as broccoli, radish, pea shoots and kale – crops not native to this region.”
She added: “We will be working with allotment growers to encourage vertical farming methods, and, importantly, looking to spread the message about the mental health and wellbeing benefits there are to this.”
Those words were echoed by Warren Priestley, who together with Len and Gareth Griffith-Swain launched Snowdon Valley Farm (Fferm Cwm Yr Wyddfa) in Waunfawr last April.