Plant health policy, perfecting publicity to promote a flower business, and lessons the horticulture sector can learn from the food industry were all on the agenda at an informative networking session.
Growers from across Wales headed to Powis Castle near Welshpool, with clear blue skies and scorching sun providing a perfect backdrop for the final event in the current round of supply chain efficiency project Horticulture Wales. As well as presenting plentiful networking opportunities for the attendees, the get-together also attracted an eclectic range of guest speakers offering advice and guidance covering a variety of business-focused topics.
Kicking off the day’s proceedings was Paul Roberts from the Food Technology Centre in Llangefni. He outlined the role of the food centre and the facilities it can offer businesses, such as its test kitchens and laboratory. He explained how the centre had worked with a number of growers, many of whom had added value to their produce by developing new products. Paul also touched on exciting plans for the centre, and its counterparts in mid and south Wales (Food Centre Wales in Horeb and Zero2Five in Cardiff respectively), which will see the three organisations work together under the new banner of ‘Food Innovation Wales’, an initiative which will be formally launched later this month at the Royal Welsh Show.
Following Paul was Natalie Davies, a Mid-Wales Co-ordinator for the Welsh Government-funded Business Wales service. She outlined the support available to growers through the scheme, focusing particularly on the mentoring aspect which she is closely involved with. There are currently around 450 mentors from businesses across Wales, each of whom provide something of a sounding board and share their experiences with other entrepreneurs. The scheme is able to match mentors with suitable business needs, for example in areas such as social media or business planning.
The session then turned to plant health, with Nia Meddins, the Welsh Government’s Plant Health Policy Lead, explaining how the issue had gained particular traction at ministerial level in both Welsh and UK governments over the past couple of years due to outbreak of tree diseases such as Chalara (ash dieback) and Phythophtora ramorum, as well as the increased threat of pests and diseases as a result of international trade and climate change. She revealed that even though plant health was a devolved matter, there still needs to be close coordination between Welsh Government and UK departments and agencies such as DEFRA and APHA, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, as rather obviously but frustratingly, pests and diseases don’t quite recognise international borders.