Two Welsh businesses have been crowned egg producers of the year at BFREPA Free Range Awards 2019.

Ben Edkins, of Coed Farm, near Lampeter, scooped the title for farms with fewer than 16,000 birds. Ben impressed the judges with his strong attention to detail and innovative husbandry practices, alongside his clear drive and determination to build a sustainable future.

Innovation was an important theme with Ben Edkins, who diversified his family livestock farm into free range egg production just over four years ago.

Impressed by his ‘visibly passionate and innovative nature’ the judges praised Ben’s resilience and determination to make his business work.

Looking at many different ways to maximise his returns including water purification and probiotics, Ben's attention to detail and ability to drive efficiency really stood out.

This, combined with investment in new technologies and excellent stockmanship resulted in all-round improved performance including reduced mortality.

Husband and wife team Martin and Nikki Lawrence, of Llandrindod Wells, took home the over 16,000 birds category after they stood out to the judges for their ‘strong focus on technology and innovation to drive resilience, welfare and efficiency’.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary as free-range egg producers, the Lawrence family can look back on a decade of growth and innovation. During this time the farm has tripled in size while also consistently improving performance and efficiency.

BFREPA judge and fellow free range egg producer Trevor Sellers, commended the Lawrence family on its strong and innovative focus on bird welfare.

Martin said: “I work my day around the hens, not the other way around.”

Martin attributes a key component of the farm’s success to its unique automated packing system. Developed in-house with the help of a robotics expert, the bespoke system reduces packing time for the 64,000 bird unit to under four hours.

Martin explained: “Greater efficiency means the daily operations can now be completed in less time and with fewer staff. This has enabled us to turn our attention to production, management and welfare tasks. As a result, eggs per bird have consistently increased.

“Nikki and I are honoured to receive this award. We’re passionate about using novel technologies to improve welfare and efficiency, and are excited to see where this will take us and our children in the future.”

More than 320 people attended the glittering ceremony at the NEC hosted by the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA), sponsored by Elanco, DSM, Newquip and Noble Foods.

Judges commented: “This puts the business in a good position to adapt and adjust to the fluctuations of the market.”

Ben said: “The success of the business has been a whole family effort, and we are delighted to receive this award in recognition of our efforts within the sector. We are passionate about using new techniques to increase welfare and efficiency while building a sustainable business for our two children.”