This month with are celebrating collaboration in our P=Partnership campaign. Mark Blakeston – Grow Yorkshire Lead for the York & North Yorkshire LEP shares his experience of partnership powered innovation.
My role at the LEP is to work with partner organisations representing food and farming to drive forward new opportunities and innovation in rural economy. We work together under the banner of the LEP lead ‘Grow Yorkshire’ initiative, to help the region’s farming and food production businesses to build resilience. Grow Yorkshire partners include The NFU, our National Parks, Local authorities, Fera Science, , CLA, the University of York, Yorkshire Food, Farming & Rural Network, Deliciouslyorkshire, and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, amongst many others.
The Grow Yorkshire partnership worked together to commission a major study examining the opportunities of the hemp industry in Yorkshire. The research examined the current supply chain to see how the region could potentially play a bigger part in an industry estimated to be worth more than £3bn globally.
Despite its more controversial reputation, hemp has a range of uses, including building materials, biofuel and clothing. In Yorkshire, around 1,600 tonnes of hemp is produced annually, which is approximately 35-40% of the current UK output.
Hemp is a relatively niche crop at present but there’s growing demand and interest thanks to the environmental benefits hemp offers and the diverse range of uses it has commercially.
It was vital to work in partnership to commission the research into new and innovative ways of farming so that the findings can return real and practical value for our rural agricultural business community. Grow Yorkshire commissioned the research which was funded by The Supply Chain Network (through the ERD funding) and delivered by specialist consultants Promar International.
The report, published in March 2021, pointed to a short-term goal to generate and build collaborative working among hemp supply chain stakeholders, to help share expertise and mirror similar approaches to those found aboard where clusters have formed to pool resources.
Emma Gough, Senior Consultant at Promar International, said: “Our research has shown that the hemp sector in Yorkshire plays a significant role in the UK hemp industry. There are a large number of passionate and pro-active stakeholders that have the opportunity to collaborate and strengthen the existing supply chain going forward. We hope that this research can be a starting point towards growing the sector for the future.”
The growth and collaboration that Emma speaks of has already begun.
One of our lead partners for this piece of work is the Bio-renewables Development Centre (BDC) in York. Helen Shiels is the Business Development Manager for BDC and when I asked her about how we can use report to add value she said: “This report does an excellent job at highlighting the many opportunities the hemp industry can offer. It’s already being used as a reference for follow-on projects. This includes two bids for funding of almost £250,000 in total, looking at ways of bolstering the hemp industry in Yorkshire. At a national level, I do think we’re missing a trick by not utilising the full potential of hemp, but work like this report can help to start shifting perceptions.”
Since then the BDC have announced their HEMP-30 project which has been awarded £200k from the UK government’s Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme, funded through BEIS. The Grow Yorkshire Hemp Supply Chain research was used as the basis to develop this work.
Whilst partnership has been essential to bring forward the research, it is only the beginning of the story. We have a unique opportunity, but it will take a huge and collaborative effort to build understanding and action that can see our region take the lead in such an innovative area of growth. Together we can make our research efforts count, and I look forward to our continuing partnership working delivering projects and programmes that can engage the farming community in the business benefits to be had from growing this crop.
Read the report HERE.