Plans are being drawn up to develop a 1m sq ft "food park" in Wales that developers say will create around 1,000 jobs and provide a major boost for the food industry and the regional economy.

The Pembrokeshire site earmarked for the Park Bwyd (food park) complex, near Haverfordwest, aims to offer food production and cold storage facilities to attract companies from around Wales, including a dedicated zone for food start-ups.

Swansea-based Hacer Developments, which is spearheading the multimillion pound project, told just-food that, in addition to providing a combined "manufacturing and logistics hub" for food production firms, the site will also invest in renewable energy that could see the park produce and utilise power generated across the site itself, such as process heat from refrigeration facilities.

Hacer MD Carwyn Davies said the company is already in talks with a number of firms that are set to take part in the project, including Wales-based Puffin Produce, which owns part of the land that would be used for the park.

Davies said research by local authorities had identified a demand for space by companies from the food production sector in particular. "We talked to Pembrokeshire County Council, which had done a lot of research, and food was identified as a potential economic driver for the region and of course to create employment," he said.

Davies explained a key element of plans for the park, which the company will be discussing with local enterprise zone chiefs next week, is the provision of "incubation units to support early start-ups".

He said: "This is an important element because it will be important to support what could become large-scale businesses in the future. I see the park as providing a ladder of growth for companies to build their businesses in this region. Through the park, they will also be able to benefit from sharing technologies and reducing transport costs by being co-located with businesses of a similar nature."

Davies expects to submit an outline planning application for the park within the next year. Negotiations are already under way to secure funding for the project from sources, which would also finance the purchase of land needed for the project from local authorities and Puffin Produce.

"Our goal is to build the park in stages, but with the support we already have, we know we can deliver phases one to three as proposed," Davies said.

"In view of the investments involved, I cannot go into financial details at this stage. But the first phase would include units in a block set aside for business incubators. I would hope to see a total of five to seven businesses in the park in the first phase."

Puffin Produce MD Huw Thomas told just-food his company, which supplies fresh-grown Welsh produce including potatoes to UK retailers such as Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose, was fully behind the project. 

Thomas said Puffin, which has an annual turnover of around GBP20m (US$25m) owns around 40 acres of the site that would eventually make up the park. "We have already built some cold storage on the site for potatoes. Nothing is firm yet, but we are hoping to continue to expand our business and the park would give us the ability to do that. However, nothing is defined as yet in terms of investment."

Thomas said Puffin employs around 140. "We are looking at a number of projects to expand the range of Welsh-grown and packed produce to the Welsh customer," he said.