A THRIVING Knighton company is one of three candidates on the shortlist to receive this year’s Sir Bryner Jones Memorial Award – the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s flagship accolade.

Since 1957 the award has been presented annually to someone from a different area of the farming industry who has reached the highest level of achievement in their chosen sector.

This year the judges were looking for an individual or business that is actively involved in food and/or drink production which demonstrates sustainable innovation and enhances the environment in Wales.

Radnor Hills Water Co Ltd, whose headquarters are at Heartsease Farm, just outside Knighton on the Herefordshire-Powys border, is one of the three finalists. William Watkins diversified the family-run business in 1988 when he started to pack cuplets of mineral water for the airline Industry. From there the company grew and Radnor Hills was set up in 1990.

With exceptional entries from 10 counties across Wales, the judges had a challenging task whittling it down to three worthy candidates. The overall winner of this year’s coveted award will be kept under wraps until the opening day of this year’s Royal Welsh Show, on Monday, July 18, when the shortlisted contenders and their families will attend an award presentation to hear the winner announced.

Hereford Times:  Radnor Hills' Heartsease Farm HQ Radnor Hills' Heartsease Farm HQ

“We had the privilege of visiting 10 businesses throughout Wales over the course of five days throughout May and June,” said judges Brian Jones and Richard Vaughan.

“All the candidates were a credit for the food and drink sector in Wales, showing excellent product knowledge with efficient marketing regimes, which bodes well for growing the industry here in Wales.”

Sir Bryner helped shape the direction of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society for 50 years. He was agricultural commissioner for Wales and subsequently became Welsh secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture. He was president of the Royal Welsh in 1954, the society’s golden jubilee year.

Since 1990, Radnor Hills has morphed into a very sophisticated business with major investment in automation that required a substantial skill set in engineers. Radnor Hills have adapted hugely for the demands of no waste and using renewable packaging in all its containers. They very impressively recycle all waste with none going to landfill.

Any unused water and water from the plant that's been used for cleaning and washing etc is filtered back into the nearby river as perfectly clean water fit enough to be drank after going through a multi-filtration system.

More than 30 years after their first bottles were sold, they now supply over 250 UK wholesalers and retailers including some of Britain's largest supermarkets. The emphasis of their product is on flavour and quality and they have diversified further in recent years with many different product ranges. The wellbeing of staff is a top priority as well as their business being as environmentally friendly as possible. Staff recruitment with specialist skill sets is an ongoing challenge and they train many in-house. It is a very large-scale employer in a very rural area, therefore the benefit they bring to the local economy and area is huge. Many of the key workers for the business live on the farm itself.

Environmental sustainability is at the forefront for Radnor Hills, who are committed to minimising their impact, which is how they have excelled in sending no waste to landfill since 2018.

To identify the outcome of their footprint a PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal) exercise was undertaken and this model is attributed to the outcomes of their environmental management system and this has been operational since 2018.

The Heartsease farm on which the water company is located extends to approximately 1,400 acres of which 800 are arable. The remainder is grass which is home to approximately 140 Welsh Black cows and well over 1,000 mules.

Hereford Times:  William Watkins, the founder of Radnor Hills William Watkins, the founder of Radnor Hills

Although the farm is not fully organic it is a very low input system that makes efficient use of manure. On the land near the factory there are approximately 14 boreholes which supply the water to the factory from natural springs.

The firm’s sound business plan has a clear strategic direction, one that will keep the Radnor Hills brand on the shelves for years to come.

The other two candidates in the running for the award are Carmarthenshire-based Gwenyn Gruffydd Ltd and the Rhug Estate, in Corwen, Denbighshire.

Gwenyn Gruffydd was founded in 2010 after Gruffydd decided to follow his dream of keeping bees. His passion for beekeeping has continued growing and the successful hobby resulted in Gwenyn Gruffydd Ltd being established in September 2019. The business is now in its third year of trading as and supplies farm shops, delis and wholesalers who distribute the honey across the country.

The Rhug Estate covers 12,500 acres with approximately 6,700 of those farmed in hand. Lord Newborough took over the estate from his father in 1998 and because sustainability is at the heart of the business mission, it was converted to an organic farm with full organic status from 2000. This sustainable farming model is producing as much now as when farmed conventionally.

The winner will be announced in the council enclosure at 2.30pm on Monday, July 18.