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Sunday, September 23

Daffodils for Alzheimer's

VIDEO + TRANSCRIPT:

See why Kevin's farm is now producing enough galanthamine from daffodils to help 9,000 Alzheimer's patients.



Farming has been the economic backbone of rural Wales for hundreds of years, with sheep farming accounting for the overwhelming majority of Welsh agriculture.

But the industry is now in crisis due to falling prices, high costs and changing weather conditions.

The Stephens family have been farming in Powys for 5 generations.

"I was born into it, it's my life, it's what I've done all my life and it's what my parents did. I just continued afterwards. Farming isn't so much a business. If it was a business, you wouldn't do it.

It's not even so much a way of life it's just who you are.

The cost of everything is going up; fertiliser, straw, feed, all going up, and the prices we're getting paid are going down".

When 24 year old Mark decided he wanted to take on the family farm, Kevin realised that they would have to diversify from traditional methods to survive. I was casting around trying to find a way for him to make a living, raise a family on a hill farm in Mid Wales.

In 2007, Kevin read an article about Professor Trevor Walker, who was looking at ways to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's after his friend's wife had been diagnosed.

The professor discovered that daffodils grown under special conditions above 1,000 ft in the Welsh mountains produce a lot more of this alkaloid called galanthamine, which is an approved Alzheimer's drug, than daffodils grown anywhere else.

There is, with Alzheimer's disease, an enzyme imbalance in the brain. But galanthamine in the body creates the opposite enzyme imbalance in the brain so if you get the dosage of galanthamine right, it restores the equilibrium.

Kevin saw an opportunity to help his son. He contacted the professor and they teamed up to develop a unique way of harvesting daffodils on the hill farm, without disrupting their livestock.

Kevin is now producing enough galanthamine to help 9,000 Alzheimer's patients.

"When we started down this route, most people thought we were completely nuts.

As we've got further through the process and proven what we're saying, it's starting to get some credibility and people are taking us seriously now.

The way this project is shaping up we will be able to produce galathamine on hill farms across Wales and beyond which will have a significant positive impact on farm incomes as well as producing galanthamine for an Alzheimer's population that is desperately in need of it, and generating jobs for the people involved in the process and in production of galanthamine.

We now have a commercial crop which should give him the opportunity to have a commercial future on this farm and allow him to raise his family and future generations here".

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