Heather Mills yesterday (Thursday 12th September) launched a vital drive to make the North-East the world centre for the creation of planet-rescuing ideas, business and industry – Plant-Based Valley.
The environmental equivalent of California’s Silicon Valley, Plant-Based Valley is designed to become the Northern powerhouse for the brightest vegan minds to innovate new ways of helping to battle climate change.
Heather – who owns three plant-based factories totalling 600,000 sq ft in the Newcastle area, producing her VBites vegan food range – is already godmothering small vegan start-up initiatives by giving them the means to manufacture at her huge facilities through her VBites Ventures scheme.
But now she aims to vastly expand the operation and create hundreds of more jobs in the region in response to the world increasingly turning towards plant-based solutions for saving the Earth by changing the way we eat.
“This is not merely a business and investment enterprise, this is an enterprise on which the future of the planet is going to depend,” said Heather at the launch of the project today at her VBites factory at Seaton Delavel, near Newcastle.
“I have been warning about this for more than 20 years and it is now an accepted scientific fact, endorsed by everyone from the United Nations to David Attenborough to Greta Thunberg’s teens-based movement, that the cattle culture diet is having a disastrous effect on the climate and it threatens our very existence. Every expert agrees that for the sake of continued life on Earth we all have to make significant changes to our traditionally meat-based diet, each of us now has that global social responsibility.
“Sooner or later, and I pray that it is sooner for the sake of our children and our children’s children, many more of us are going to have to embrace much more of a plant-based way of eating and living as a solution to the climate change crisis.
“As that crisis is rapidly worsening at alarming speed, I want the North-East to be up and running with innovative new ideas and discoveries and ready to deal with the demand for climate-friendly living which without doubt is going to happen.”
Heather revealed that one of the new products from VBites is a plant-based, fish-free Omega-3 that solves a problem for vegetarians and vegans who need the important fatty acids but don’t want to take it from sea life.
“We’ve got a brand-new product called Vmega-3 which I’m very excited about because it’s a game-changer,” said Heather. “Most people think Omega-3 oil comes from fish, but the truth is it comes from the algae that fish eat. People get their Omega-3 by eating the fish, but with Vmega-3 you by-pass the fish and get it straight from the algae.
“Omega-3 oil from fish is no longer sustainable. Overfishing and fish-farming have a seriously detrimental effect on the marine environment, plus there’s the worry from research which has shown that the vast majority of fish caught now contain industrial toxins and pollutants.
“But Vmega-3 is 100% vegan Omega-3 oil harvested from the nutrient-rich, plant-based algae to create a healthier, marine-friendly product. Our unique process uses biomass grown under controlled manufacturing conditions and naturally occurring micro-organisms instead of fish or other animals.
Heather’s business partner, Richard Lanyon , added: “Innovations such as Vmega-3 is what Plant Based Valley all about, a centre for the future of climate-friendly food. At Plant Based Valley we already operate the UK’s only 100% plant-based manufacturing facility, providing 55 acres of business and manufacturing space exclusively for plant-based businesses.
“But we also have 10 acres of expansion land which can accommodate 200,000 sq ft of brand-new manufacturing and warehouse space to assist scale up for plant-based manufacturing companies.
“Our vision is simple, to provide plant-based manufacturing companies a unique platform and manufacturing space to scale up and meet demand.
“We are striving to create an environment which not only fosters innovation and wellness for employees, creates links with logical agricultural providers to reduce carbon footprints and to improve the carbon emissions of our buildings, but also and mainly to become a worldwide centre of excellence for plant-based manufacturing.”
VBites, which produces the UK’s largest range of plant-based foods, with 140 products, already employs 300 people in the North-East. But with the growth of the Plant Based Valley that number is expected to double in the next 12 months.
“There has been a huge surge in the numbers of people who have turned to, or who are occasionally turning to, a plant-based diet. And the way things are looking, there’s going to be many more yet,” said Heather. “If we adopt a plant-based, climate-friendly food economy, many of the world’s problems would be over. According to the Food Aid Foundation around 8m people go hungry each day, not having enough food to eat to live a healthy active life.
“Global population is expanding at a rapid rate, by 2050 we’ll need to feed an extra 2bn more people. Will they go hungry too? They wouldn’t need to if we adopt a climate-friendly economy – which simply means feeding ourselves with the crops that we currently grow to feed livestock.
“Many of us have been saying this for years to no avail. But hopefully now the world will listen, not least because the crisis is so grave that the world now has to listen.
“Up to 90% of the soy beans grown worldwide is fed to livestock. Estimates vary, but between 4bn to 5.5bn more people could be nutritiously fed if the crops we feed to rear livestock were used to feed ourselves instead.
“And that’s without needing any more land for agriculture, no need for more disastrous deforestation. Just using the land that we already use for farming now, we could feed up to an extra 5.5bn people. Doesn’t that make sense?”
Heather also called on the Government to not only begin investment in the plant-based economy but also to not abandon plans for HS2 to provide an “essential artery” for businesses in the North.
“HS2 is not only crucial to bolstering the economy of the North and the North-East, it is indispensable to the key role that the area can have in providing a manufacturing innovation which will be a lifeline not only for the UK, but for the planet,” said Heather. “HS2 is not a Crossrail for the North, it is an essential artery for a region which has for centuries been the powerhouse of our world-leading nation. Now, at a time when the planet is facing the gravest threat in its very history, it is going to be very much needed for us to build this new Northern powerhouse which will lead the way again.
“The Government has to wake up to the fact that an increasingly plant-based economy is an undeniable environmental necessity and it needs to hugely and urgently invest in the innovation and expansion of that, so that Britain can become the world leader of that industry.”
More details are available on the new Plant Based Valley website, which has just gone live: https://plantbasedvalley.co.uk.