A PIONEERING health-related venture in Wales shows how farming land can still be vital for our prospects as a nation.
Only this week, the Tory government put out advertisements encouraging farmers to apply for a lump sum to give up farming.
As if further downplaying the importance of agriculture in the UK
But here in Wales, where an attachment to land still runs deep, there are hopes that this bond can yet yield fresh new opportunities.
A company headed by Welsh entrepreneur Sir Roger Jones is growing daffodils on Welsh uplands in Powys in order to treat the modern curse that is Alzheimers disease.
Daffodils grown in wind-swept upland conditions produce galanthamine which is shown to slow or even halt Alzheimers and Dementia.
The firm he chairs, Agroceutical, plans to manufacture an over-the-counter product – developed in collaboration with a Canadian neuroscience company – in Blaenau Gwent, with production commencing early in 2023 and initially targeting the North American market.
Agroceutical founder Kevin Stephens has already been producing enough galanthamine on his farm – 1000 feet above sea level at Fedwlydan in the Black Mountains – to treat 9,000 patients a year. Roger Jones is now seeking further clusters of growers in other upland areas in Wales.
He said the development could ‘revitalise’ rural Wales and provide new opportunities for economic development.
The news was welcomed by Gwlad Leader Gwyn Wigley Evans, who also farms alongside his other business interests.
‘With all the doom and gloom around the prospects of farming and rural life in general this is the type of economic innovation we need’ he said.
‘We are fed up with rural Wales being considered as just good for trees and tourism. We need a thriving rural economy and new ventures like this can only help in this respect.’
Mr. Evans said that although daffodils could only be grown in a certain part of the agricultural landscape, it still showed how farmers could innovate and keep farming land in use.
‘It’s good for farmers to have other products they can sell as they’re not all competing against each other in one particular market, e.g lamb, which can diminish their returns,’ he said.
With the recent trend of ‘greenwashing’ – large firms planting trees in Wales to offset corporate emissions – it’s very encouraging to see more productive use of our land at last.