The University of Warwick’s research commercialisation wing, Warwick Innovations, has signed a contract with agronomy specialist Agrii to promote the commercial production of UK haricot beans developed by scientists at the University of Warwick.
Professor Eric Holub, from Warwick’s Crop Centre, part of the School of Life Sciences, has bred three haricot bean varieties which are adapted for growing in the UK climate and are more suited to standard farm machinery.
Under the new contract, Agrii will carry out pre-commercial field trials and detailed research to enable a proof-of-concept and move towards creating a growing model which fits with progressive UK broad acre farming systems.
This will offer low food miles alternative supply model to those currently imported from North America and some African countries. Haricot beans could also make a valuable contribution towards achieving climate goals in the food sector, improving soil structure and help extend farm rotations through offering a short season, nitrogen-fixing break crop desired by UK growers.
Capulet, a white bean, Godiva, a blonde variety and Olivia, which is black, have been selected for their quality, versatility and suitability for different uses. They are fast-cooking from a dry ingredient and also suitable for commercial canning in British baked beans. Alone the UK leading brand of baked beans is responsible for shipping in 50,000 tonnes of North American beans per annum.
Haricot beans are an excellent source of essential amino acids, dietary fibre and other micronutrients. The new varieties will make a versatile addition to healthy meals made with traditional British-grown ingredients.
Peter Smith, Market Development and Pulse Seed Manager from Agrii, said: “Agrii is delighted to be involved in this exciting crop area and we look forward to working closely with Warwick and food companies including Princes Foods. This is a great example of collaboration throughout the supply chain working towards increased UK crop and food production.’’
Professor Eric Holub, from the University of Warwick, said: “Self-sufficiency in food production is important for reducing human impact on global climate. British-grown beans can help us shift our diets to a healthier future, adding to other UK ingredients to supply the growing trend of flexitarian diets with new markets like Brit-Mediterranean and Brex-Mexican style food.”
Agrii Head of Agronomy, Colin Lloyd, said: “Haricot bean varieties bred for UK conditions which can been grown on a commercial scale offer a broad range of benefits for UK farming. Alongside faba beans and peas, haricot beans could provide an alternative short-season break crop for cereal rotations, improving soil and contributing to the responsible land stewardship, and adding to the viability of farming businesses.”
Dr Suzanna Wood from Warwick Innovations said: “We are pleased to sign this agreement with Agrii, with the view to bringing this innovative food crop to market and with the potential to change the UK’s home grown food model forever.”