Case study 15: United Kingdom: Growing pulses and innovative crops for a less resource intensive diet

Cluster 3: Crop diversification in systems from Western Europe

A group of initiators was particularly interested in the effects of more resilient diets on farming, and how it would have to change and adapt. They started to set up an experiment for pulses and grains to stimulate and assess demand for indigenous pulses.  
The main objective is thus to evaluate the effect of more diverse human diets on agricultural systems and structures.

What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
The idea developed when the group of initiators (see below) formed an initiative in 2009 for more resilient diets for Norwich (a city/district in East-Anglia). The group was particularly interested in the effects of the initiative on farming and how it would have to change/adapt. They started to set up an experiment for pulses and grains “The Great British Beans trial project” to stimulate and assess demand for indigenous pulses.  
The main objective is thus to evaluate the effect of more diverse human diets on agricultural systems and structures.
The Organic Research Centre ORC does a lot of participatory research with farmers, and Hodmedods was closely linked to Prof Martin Wolfe (Wakelyns Agroforestry/ORC) for many years. Martin is Director of East Anglia Food Link and has supported and collaborated Hodmedod Ltd from the start.

How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
The initial group of initiators Josiah Meldrum, Nick Saltmarsh and William Hudson have set up Hodmedod Ltd. in 2012 to supply beans and other less-well known products from British farms.
Hodmedod Ltd. has a close network of various actors along the value chain:
1) a number of farmers who grow certain varieties and crops for them and run trials for new products (e.g. quinoa, faviola beans etc.)
2) a wide range of supportive and loyal customers for their online sales
3) a number of larger whole-sale partners
4) different processors for grain cleaning, milling of pulses and grains, and for canning
5) the John Innes Centre Seedbank to help identify suitable new/old varieties and crops that not necessarily provide the highest yields or disease resistance but have better nutritional quality and taste.

Solution investigated
To supply for a growing market demand based on a movement towards more resilient human diets, increasing overall sustainability of food systems.

Expected outcome
The main expectation of Josiah Meldum is to increase knowledge exchange with similar businesses and growers to hear from other case studies. Knowledge transfer amongst the vegetable case study cluster is very important for him. That is, meeting the actors and together discussing practical challenges and solutions for crop diversification. He hopes for the opportunity to learn more about his own business and its sustainability, strengths, and weaknesses.

Relevance to the DiverIMPACTS goals
This case study provides a rare opportunity for studying an approach that was started by a consumer initiative for more sustainable diets for the community. Here, we can study the entire value chain of a business with very close networks both up and down stream, supporting local businesses and regional structures.

Contact

  • Anja Vieweger, ORC, case study leader