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A desire to protect and enhance the bee and pollinator population in Wales has led to an innovative project between two seemingly disparate businesses.
Although drawn from different parts of the food industry, Ellis Eggs Ltd and Bee Welsh Honey have a common desire to boost the fortunes of bees and pollinators and highlight their vital impact on the environment.
Jason Ellis, owner of the Hirwaun-based egg company, and Builth Wells bee farmer Shane Llewelyn-Jones have forged a collaboration that is already benefitting the environment and potentially creating commercial opportunities.
Jason’s interest in the vital role of bees and pollinators was sparked by reading articles and watching nature programmes. Wanting to make a positive and practical contribution towards the bee population, the company has sponsored the creation of a new apiary of 12 hives sited in mid Wales.
A family-run business based at a state-of-the-art egg packing facility in Rhondda Cynon Taf, Ellis Eggs sells free-range eggs produced by 275,000 hens on eight Welsh farms.
Jason said: “As a business, we use lorries and vans, and so we’re trying to offset their effect on the environment, and we’ve also installed solar panels. Bees are such small creatures, yet they play an important part in the ecosystem. What we are doing is not going to save the world or change the planet, but we are doing our bit.”
The two entrepreneurs have been brought together by the Welsh Honey Cluster, which is part of the Food & Drink Wales Cluster initiative to foster connections between businesses in the sector.
Shane said: “Jason was put in touch with me through the Welsh Honey Cluster as he wanted to support bees and their sustainability. I suggested he sponsor some hives, and the result is a project that’s bringing birds and the bees together for the benefit of the environment.”
With a fascination for bees stretching back to his childhood, Shane has created the multi-award-winning Bee Welsh Honey Company and has more than 200 hives in apiaries throughout mid Wales.
Shane, who is also a regional bee inspector, bred the bees and advised Jason on the siting of the hives for the project – which comes at a time when the number of bees globally is in decline.
Shane said: “All’s going well, and currently, there are a dozen Ellis Eggs hives in the Brecon Beacons. The hives are in a good spot, at the right altitude, and on a farm that grows wildflowers and cover crops that are beneficial to pollinators.”
Welsh Honey Cluster lead Haf Wyn Hughes added: “The majority of people don’t realise the level of investment required to set up hives on a commercial basis. One of the major barriers to growth for beekeepers is access to sufficient funds, as most in Wales don’t own their own land.
“Therefore, having a company like Ellis Eggs take such a keen interest in the sustainability of beekeeping and commit to funding hives is very welcome indeed. I hope more enterprises will consider doing likewise.”
It is early days for Jason and Shane’s alliance, but already there are hopes to increase the number of hives and even create a new honey brand.
Meanwhile, the collaboration has inspired the creation of a new brand from Ellis Eggs – Beeloved Farm Eggs – which have gone on sale in CK stores in Wales.
With environmental considerations very much in mind, the egg boxes – which feature bees and hives – are made from a minimum of 50 per cent grass and are 100 per cent compostable and recyclable.
Jason, a member of the Fine Food Cluster, said:“It’s all part of just trying to look out for our children’s future, and I thought it was about time we tried to change our way of doing things. I knew of fruit being packed in grass boxes and found out an egg box could be made from it too, so the project started from there, and we hope it will grow.”
Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has also added her support to the venture.
“This initiative is a great example of how businesses can work collaboratively to help protect our precious environment, and create new commercial opportunities,” she said.
“The Welsh Honey Cluster is playing an important role in bringing businesses together and I look forward to seeing more success stories such as this.”
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