As part of the Anglesey Agri Innovation project support was provided to the agricultural sector to trial new methods of farming. Hydroponics was identified as a technique which could be utilised to increase the supply of local fruit and vegetables and extend the season.
Hydroponics is a method of growing crops without the use of soil. Water and nutrients are circulated around a closed system and the crops are usually grown in plastic channels. The advantages of the system over traditional farming methods include reduced water usage, fewer nutrients leaching into the soil, a longer growing season and fewer pests.
A test unit was established in Cae Gwyn near Llannerchymedd in partnership with Phil and Rowena Mansfield to demonstrate how hydroponics worked. It was used to grow a wide variety of produce such as salad crops, flowers, herbs and fruit in order to demonstrate the viability of the system.
Local farmers were invited to attend open days and courses were provided on the technology. Of those that showed an interest four were supported to establish their own units and were given on-going support and advice. They were also members of the Anglesey Growers Group which encouraged the growers to share experiences and support each other.
Support was also provided to access the market and Broga was established in order to collect, distribute and sell the produce to local hotels and restaurants. Initially run by Menter Môn, this has since been taken over by one of the growers.
The trial succeeded in demonstrating an innovative technique and provided a platform for other growers to develop their own units. However the most important measure of success is its commercial impact and Broga's continued viability since 2006 has shown that there is a demand for produce grown using hydroponic systems.
Phil and Rowena Mansfield have since established an Aquaponics system which incorporates fish farming into hydroponics. Courses and open days are held at Cae Gwyn which provide an insight into both systems.