Consideration was given to the report
related to Food Centre Wales built by Ceredigion County Council at Horeb,
Llandysul, and opened in 1996, to provide technical support for the food
industry in Ceredigion as well as Mid and South-West Wales. Its location, being
accessible to rural, farming communities in Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and
Pembrokeshire highlights one of its key objectives, which is to support farming
businesses that wished to diversify into added-value processing. Food Centre
Wales provides technical services to business start-ups, SMEs and national food
Food Centre Wales has formed a partnership
with another two food technology centres in Wales, located in Llangefni and
Cardiff to provide Wales-wide support for the food industry. An overview of the
current provision including a focus on the Helix project and the impact on the
economy was provided. Since 2016, the Food Centre Wales team has delivered good
results through the HELIX project against the targets set. It was noted that
the table included in the report did not reflect the full volume of support
provided as they were only able to include the first intervention provided to
businesses, although many returned a few times a year.
In terms of the future, Ceredigion County
Council purchased a further 5 acres of land adjacent to the current estate in
2019 at Horeb to facilitate future growth plans. Two projects were currently
being developed and assessed for inclusion in the Growth Deal programme for Mid
establishment of a Food Manufacturing Innovation Centre would bring
state-of-the-art, industrial-scale pilot facilities aimed at enabling the
growth of more mid-sized food manufacturing businesses in Mid Wales.
provision of grow-on food manufacturing facilities, building on the current
incubator units at Food Centre Wales.
These developments would further enhance the
provision of services for the agri-food sector in Ceredigion, which was key to
its economic well-being and would help to future-proof the facility and its
long-term relevance and viability. There were also exciting developments by
other projects in the Growing Mid Wales Growth Deal namely AberInnovation and
Tir Glas, which would complement Food Centre Wales. The Centre had been awarded
a 2-year extension of core budget, but there was no certainty following this.
Members were provided with the opportunity to
ask questions which were answered by the Officers present. The main points
raised were as follows:
noted that the Centre were able to support businesses from outside Wales
commercially, but only businesses from Wales were able to benefit from the
Helix project, which was the focus at present.
businesses who accessed support were based in Mid and South-West Wales.
Rachel’s Diary and other businesses that had received support early on in their
journey continued to access support as they grew. As businesses expanded, there
was greater demand for expertise rather than generic support. In addition, due
to the current economic climate, businesses were exploring ways to reduce costs
and rather than testing any changes in processes at their base, preferred to do
so at the Centre to avoid disruptions to production.
from the dairy sector had diversified and sold milk directly, with some
businesses starting their journey at the Centre. Given the current financial
challenges, more dairy farmers may decide to add value to their product. By
utilizing the support from the Centre, they would be able to explore options
without investing too much initially, before deciding whether or not it was the
best option for them.
raised concerns that only 2 years of funding had been provided at present.
Officers clarified that the Helix project had been delivered through the
European Union initially for 5 years and the Welsh Government had provided one
extension of core funding followed by the latest 2-year extension. Regular
discussions were held with Officers and Ministers and the Centre delivered
against the targets set which was positive. Plans were being developed in the
event no further funding would be provided. In addition, the Centre’s focus
would have to be more commercial in nature, which may impact smaller businesses
as there would be a greater focus on maximising income.
noted that Cardiff Metropolitan University was one of Food Innovation Wales’s
partners. There was an aspiration to work with students who were eager to
develop a career in the sector, and this would be an area of improvement in
were raised that successful businesses had relocated from Ceredigion to other
parts of the country due to tax purposes and recruitment challenges in the
past. It was noted that the Centre had an ambition to work with businesses of
all sizes to understand more and one business in particular had been central to
the development of Food Centre Wales and their vision for the future.
· Currently, there was not enough space at the
Centre for businesses to develop on-site and it was challenging at times.
Businesses tended to move to farm buildings or industrial estates, but usually,
work needed to be carried out to ensure the facilities were suitable for food
production. One of the key elements of the Growth Deal was to expand on the
provision available to meet the demand to enable businesses to develop.
· Design and marketing were considered key for
businesses. Food Centre Wales worked closely with Business Wales and marketing
specialist Cywain, a project run by Menter and Busnes. Welcoming sessions were
arranged jointly between the three projects regularly for new businesses. In
terms of business credibility, checks were carried out and work was undertaken
to ensure products were viable and there was a market before further work was
Following questions by the Committee
Members, it was agreed to note the report and to undertake a site visit to
further review the site’s work and its future plans.