European Innovation Partnership in Wales continues to benefit agricultural industry

SINCE it was first launched in 2016, EIP (European Innovation Partnership) Wales has enabled more than 200 individuals working at the grass roots level of the agricultural industry to benefit from the latest technologies and scientific outcomes from academic and scientific experts throughout the world.

Lecturers, researchers, scientists, analysts and many other internationally recognised sector experts are now influencing the way things are done here in Wales, thanks to the current EIP Wales grant allocation of almost £1.7million pounds funded 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. With a broad mix of 46 agricultural, horticultural and forestry projects either completed or still underway – the EIP Wales programme ends in 2023 – many rural businesses are now starting to show significant results.

EIP Wales is delivered by Menter a Busnes, one of Wales’ leading rural economic development organisations. The role of the Farming Connect Knowledge Exchange Hub (KEH) based at IBERS, Aberystwyth University’s world-recognised centre of rural learning, has been critical to the success of the project. The KEH is able to access and disseminate unique data and research, in an easily understood format, from academic establishments throughout the world.

EIP Wales has invested in 46 separate operational groups, all working on innovative and exciting projects that will not only effect change within those businesses actually involved, but influence the wider industry in the years ahead as learning and findings are shared.

Lynfa Davies, knowledge exchange manager with Farming Connect, who manages the project, says EIP Wales has proved enormously successful and will have implications for the way things are done in Wales for many years to come.

“Giving progressive farmers and foresters this unique opportunity to investigate new ideas and cutting edge technologies on issues that really ‘matter’ to them, and which will impact on their efficiency and sustainability long term, is hugely beneficial for the participating groups themselves and the wider industry,” says Ms. Davies.

A recently completed project in Anglesey has successfully reduced the use of antibiotics within the group’s sheep flocks. Working closely with an invited veterinarian and sheep health expert, this has been achieved through a combination of different lambing management techniques such as increasing cleanliness in the lambing shed and changing ewe nutrition.

In Monmouthshire, an organic market gardener has found that growing organic asparagus – relatively untried in Wales – has proved a winner in terms of quality, production levels and sales through both the farm shop and local businesses, leading to a lucrative new stream of income.

In North Wales, a project looking at genomic assessments in dairy heifers has significantly speeded up the rate of herd improvement, with the farmers now able to select only those heifers with the best genetic potential for breeding.

Another grassland research project, which saw liquid foliar feed trialled instead of the more commonly used granular fertiliser, is having positive environmental and financial impacts, resulting in a successful, more targeted and cost-effective approach.

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Andy Matthews, who farms 600 acres at Aberbran Fawr, near Brecon has been busy preparing this season’s crop of around 5,000 pumpkins, for the lucrative Halloween market at the end of this month. However, due to Covid 19 restrictions , the season has been cut short, but by adapting to the circumstances, sales were brisk in the lead up to the lockdown as families planned early for celebrating at home.

“Unfortunately, any stock that is left over will now have to be sold at a reduced price to the wholesale market,” said Mr. Matthews.

Pumpkins can potentially offer high-value returns from pick your own local Halloween markets, but they are also increasingly in demand as an edible crop, with a number of prominent eating varieties now available to UK growers.

Mr. Matthews and a group of like-minded farmers turned to EIP Wales because their own early research had revealed that the pumpkin crop can be prone to a number of ‘rots’ such as blossom end rot (BER) which can render the fruit unmarketable.

“I was aware that BER can lead to significant crop losses and it is one of the primary sources of wastage in this sector, but by working with specialists from ADAS we received specialist guidance on reducing this risk by addressing the nutritional requirements of both crop and soil.”

The financial support available through this final round of EIP Wales, which has now all been allocated, was for up to a maximum of £40,000 per project. It has been allocated for a range of purposes including buying in specialist expert advice, hire of equipment, contractor costs and monitoring procedures such as samples, tests and data analysis.

For further information on EIP Wales and its projects, visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect

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.

photo credit: EIP Wales

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