More farmers could start growing haricot beans after agronomy specialists Agrii signed a contract to promote the commercial production of the crop in the UK.
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 university scientists.
Eric Holub, from Warwick’s Crop Centre, part of the university’s School of Life Sciences, has bred three haricot bean varieties specially adapted for growing in the UK climate and are more suited to standard farm machinery.
Professor Holub said: “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.”
Under the new contract, Agrii will carry out pre-commercial field trials and research to enable a proof-of-concept and move towards creating a growing model which fits with progressive UK broadacre farming systems.
Red haricot beans have already been grown commercially in the UK – including by Cambridgeshire farmer Tim Gawthroup for specialist food producer Hodmedod’s. These new varieties could now widen the opportunities for growers.
Agrii believes growing haricot beans on a wider scale in the UK will offer a more sustainable alternative to beans currently imported from North America and some African countries. They could also help improve soil structure and help to extend farm rotations.
The three new varieties are white bean Capulet, blonde bean Godiva and black bean Olivia – all 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.
Range of benefits
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.
Agrii market development and pulse seed manager Peter Smith said the company would be working working closely with Warwick and Princes Foods. “This is a great example of collaboration throughout the supply chain working towards increased UK crop and food production.”
The market is niche but substantial. The UK leading brand of baked beans imports 50,000t of North American beans annually. Agrii head of agronomy Colin Lloyd said haricot bean varieties bred for UK conditions could offer a range of other benefits for British growers too.