While holding a visiting Professorship at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Peas & Beans Ltd. was set up with the help of a friend. Anthony Brown was head of a successful refrigeration engineering company. He shared with Colin a vision of what ought to be able to be achieved, with greatly improved pulses and pulse based products, in an increasingly vegetarian world. Never however has the aim of our Company been to provide new varieties and new foods solely for vegetarians. However the cooked and frozen route to product development has been an enduring theme.
From a firmer footing, and carrying on from some work done in conjunction with his French clients, Colin set out to develop and try to commercialize a whole new range of cultivars. These would be from as many classes of beans as possible from the bean cuisines of the world that could be bred to be adapted to the British climate. These included Pintos, Great Northerns, Alubias, Flageolets verts, new types of green-seeded beans, as well as Manteca and Coscorron classes, which were almost unknown outside Chile. He was advised by a senior commercial bean expert of the desirability of a quite new type of red-seeded bean that might replace dark red kidneys through having better processing characteristics. This led after twelve years to Stop. In vegetable beans he decided to try to go a step beyond the recently lamented Tex Frazier and Jim Baggett's Romano breeding program in Oregon and to try to produce a much earlier maturing and much more upright type of bean plant producing this exceptionally attractive vegetable.
As if that were not enough he also continued work on edible-podded peas on which he had begun work in France in 1979. This programme was based on the parental use of some remarkable Chilean bred germplasm given to him by Dr. Krarup of University Austral in Chile. Two pea cultivars,Tripos and Cygnet were registered.
He drew up a number of trialing agreements to test material in several further overseas locations as well and in Britain and France. Meanwhile during winter months he continued, but on a much reduced scale, a programme of overseas agricultural consultancies, for example in such unusual crops as Breadfruit, Vanilla, Mulberries for silk production and Rosy Periwinkle as a source pharmaceutical drugs.
BRIEF HISTORY OF PEAS AND BEANS LTD.
Peas and Beans Ltd. has not had an easy progress, but as a vehicle has been invaluable for providing for continuity of the plant breeding effort. In early days the Scottish Development Agency supported market research to introduce a new pea-based product called the 'Veg-Weg'. This was to made using his SANTA peas with a new cookery invention called a 'Snakwega'. Santa had very large and nearly white seeds. That idea may now be revivable but with different ingredients. The Santa pea never developed to its real potential as an organic variety because it was so vegetatively competitive that it was problematical in official trials.
The Scottish market research for 'Veg-Wedges', funded by the Scottish Development Agency, had been favorable but just as 'VegWeg' were due to hit the streets; the Scottish food partner company, Fleck's Vienna Bakery, was 'taken over' by Northern Foods and the project collapsed. The S. D. A. was apologetic. This was just the first of many such nasty experiences.
Peas & Beans Ltd. operated until 1992 by sharing accommodation and facilities with other larger companies and supplying know-how and specialized equipment to these in exchange for access to land and part time labor. Work was, in succession, associated with The Evening Primrose Oil Company, J. K. King and Sons of Coggeshall, Agri-International , Rogers Seeds (European operations), Nutting and Speed Ltd of Longstanton, and Cresthale Seeds of Werrington. All of these failed or fell apart, while Peas & Beans was able to continue, step aside, and move on, if not to thrive.
From 1992 until the present, land owned by St John's College, Cambridge became available near Colins home and provided a crucial land resource. A small local farm near his house was found with could provide, at low rental, space for under-roof facilities. These however are really quite inadequate by any normal standards. Farm equipment, which should be protected, has to face the weather. There has been horrendous village vandalism to contend with too. Nevertheless closeness to home and control of a private plant breeding 'station' has allowed progress to be continued.
Over the past nine years newly bred beans have been performing well in trial locations in Canada and Australia, Ukraine, Belarus , Hungary and Romania as well as nearer home in several sites in France and U. K.. Royalties are beginning to make a contribution to funds. However, yet again, commercial take-overs have caused serious problems for collaborative arrangements made both with peas and beans. Attempts by Peas & Beans Ltd. from their own form-filling applications, to try to obtain support from public funds have now been given up, having consumed a great deal of time with no benefit or return.
FOUR YEARS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT WORKS IN JERSEY C.I.
A contact in late 1995 with a farming enterprise in the Channel Islands looking for a new crop which could be grown between May and September opened up an unexpected window of opportunity. Time will show whether that effort becomes fruitful. Jersey by being outside the E. U. and having very high freight rates and air and ferry fares puts itself into a much more difficult situation agriculturally than its geographical position and favorable climate might suggest. There is no doubt beans can be grown very well there.
NEW FOOD PRODUCT DEVELOPMENTS
From about 1995 contact has been made with two non-canning food companies with potential and desire for diversification using home grown beans as a food ingredient. This has offered complimentary opportunities to obtain added value from processing home-grown crops of niche varieties. One of these companies, Bean Thinking specializing in frozen cooked products, is associated with us in the Fenland Crop Diversity Project (see below). The second Company puts high quality food ingredients into sterile glass bottles but is only interested in organically grown raw materials.
The European Union provides support through the Ministry of Agriculture (Structural Support for Economic Development in Rural Areas of Europe) to demonstrate opportunities for diversifying cropping away from the major agricultural crops. In this context Phaseolus bean growing for Dry Bean production is treated (Realistically) as a novel activity. With ADAS support (Cook et. al. 20001) towards diversified cropping in structurally less well endowed parts of East Anglia, crops of two of our beans have been grown a farm scale demonstrations. This has necessated using imported seeds from Companies with whom I have agreements for maintaining my varieties. Test marketing has been carried out and the interest seems quite clear among the populace. Persuading retailers to look at new items of food is a stumbling block, there is still some way to go, but we are getting there.
1COOK S. K., RUNHAM S.R. & BIRKENSHAW J.E. (2000) Achieving farm diversity in East Anglia through novel crops. Aspects of Applied Biology. 62 129-133.