To date, the approaches to CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture) have been vastly different, un-coordinated and largely unsupported. Through this pilot, we will offer real growth potential at a scale that is impactful, replicable, and delivers wider benefits for the region.
This project, Crop Cycle, is being funded by the Welsh Government through the Foundational Economy Challenge Fund and we will be working with businesses and partners who are committed to the four pillars of the Economic Contract. The project will provide a testbed for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA), in the community setting – the very heart of our Foundational Economy. The project is being led by Social Farms & Gardens supported by Welsh Government’s Horticulture Cluster group and NutriWales CEA Special Interest Group.
The project allows for multiple & differing CEA systems to be tailored to fit different community settings, but allowing them to be investigated and assessed in a coordinated and joined-up way across the pilot sites. This approach is unique, allowing the testing of new socially focused business models, the engagement of the local communities and businesses with CEA and the development of new technical solutions.
This project will introduce food growing right into the heart of our communities, ones where they understand the local issues and are connected to the particular dynamics of the local area. Activities will test new community-based engagement models looking at social well-being, local entrepreneurship and environmental impact. In this way, the project will be innovative in its operational delivery, social engagement and business model creation bringing together community, businesses and local public sector organizations.
Three sites will be supported, two of which are in the Valleys. Green Meadow Community Farm in Cwmbran, one of only two ‘city farms’ in Wales, and one which connects people to food and farming in a very public way. It is owned and operated by Torfean County Borough Council, bringing with it a high-level partnership. The farm already welcomes thousands of visitors through its gates and connects locally through a number of schools and college partnerships – making it an ideal ‘showcase’ location for this pilot.
Welcome To Our Woods in Treherbert is the site of the second valley, nestled in the heart of the Rhondda Valleys. This proactive community group has been actively engaging with its communities through partnerships with the Green Valleys CIC and their joint ‘Skyline’ project. This partnership and ground-up way of working has led to several funding investments in the region looking to explore community ownership of land and the benefits that can be brought about by allowing the community to utilize some of their surrounding natural green assets for the betterment of the environment, and the local communities. This makes it a unique and perfect fit for this pilot.
Ian Thomas from Welcome To Our Woods, said, ‘work is progressing well on the growing facility in Treherbert and we are excited to be bringing such an innovative and progressive project to our local high street. We have already been engaging with the Upper Rhondda community to explore the projects that actively use our woodlands for the benefit of those they surround, and initiatives such as this help give local people an idea of what can be achieved’.
The third site will be in Ty Pawb Community Hub in Wrexham, situated in the center of Wrexham, this recently refurbished site boasts a monthly footfall of 50000. One of the key players in the successful regeneration of the town it will also link with the community rooftop garden where Welsh Heritage Fruit trees are to be planted. Its facilities include an art gallery, stage area for concerts and rooms for educational visits and community clubs.
Gary Mitchell, the Wales Manager for Social Farms & Gardens who is leading the project team stated, "we are excited to be running the pilot project across a diverse set of sites to gain insight and further knowledge into how new agricultural systems can successfully support communities in delivering local, fresh and nutritious foods as well as important social benefits in a sustainable manner."