Lees Court Estate, Faversham
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Lees Court Crops

Lees Court Estate

Significant work has then been put into formulating specific products and testing them in a German laboratory and comparing them with the leading commercial brands on the market.

In 2001 The Countess Sondes was looking for ways to create new sources of income.  Concerned about the state of farming in Britain and the cycles of profitability over the last decade, and keen to find a way of adding value to this sector, The Countess Sondes decided to take a risk and explore new avenues of revenue.

The Government is giving widespread encouragement to farmers to both diversify their business to generate alternative sources of income and to effectively market UK farming.

Lees Court has grown a range of Non Food Crops and is looking at further ways of adding value by way of a vertical integration strategy through Lees Court Crops, the entity that has been set up to oversee its commercialisation.

The selected crops will provide a stable, sustainable and renewable source of seed oils to be used primarily in skin care – both cosmetic and dermatological.

The first step has been to retain a leading professor who specialises in the science of plant lipids to help us select the appropriate crops to study. He has conducted fundamental research on behalf of Seeds that has led to two key patents being developed. These are focused on creating synergistic combinations of plant lipids, containing essential fatty acids that lead to collagen stimulation and sirtuin gene expression.

Lees Court Crops has invested in protecting its Intellectual Property through a comprehensive patenting process. This is on-going.

Leaders in growing Echium

Echium has been grown at Lees Court Estate for 10 years with great success and at a recent field visit by Prof. Keith Coupland, who pioneered the cultivation of Echium as a Non-Food Crop, concluded that the "Team at Lees Court have become world leaders in the growing of Echium".

Prof. Keith Coupland is the scientific advisor to the Estate on Non-Food Crops with biological activity.  He is a Professor at the University of Hull and a Director at the Centre for Advanced Lipid Research.

New Crop Development

We are constantly looking at new crop opportunities to achieve our goals for sustainable agriculture. The new crop development program, which has been in place for a number of years, has concentrated on oil-seed crops.  These seed oils are finding uses in exciting areas such as skincare, wound healing and pharmaceuticals.  Most of the natural oils we have developed can be described as bio-active lipids.  That is they can be administered topically - direct to the skin - or ingested as part of the diet to give a beneficial health benefit.

One class of lipids we are particularly interested in is known as essential fatty acids - or EFAs. EFAs are required for optimal health but cannot be made in the body.  They have to come in as part of the diet or supplemented as, for example, a natural skincare product.

A good example of a naturally occurring bio-active lipid is the oil produceted in the seeds of the plant echium plantagineum.  This oil contains over 70% EFAs and two very important components called stearidonic acid (SDA) and gamma-linolenic (GLA).  This combination is very important as levels may be low in people with inadequate diets and are depleted as we get older.