A WALL Heath man who became one of Britain’s most reknown farmers has died at the age of 98.

Philip Solari helped change the face of UK agriculture through his innovation and design.

He invented and built the Solari pig farrowing pen, which led to major strides in improving animal husbandry and piglet welfare.

In addition to that, he developed the world’s first four row potato planter and two row potato elevator digger.

Mr Solari’s father was landlord of the Prince Albert pub in Wall Heath and caught the bug for farming while still at school.

He initially worked as an auctioneer for King’s in Stourbridge, running the produce market before setting up his own highly successful potato merchant business which supplied fish and chip shops throughout the Midlands.

Mr Solari first farmed at Poverty Bank near Enville, but later purchased nearby Chasepool Farm and then Heath House Farm at Beckbury in Shropshire.

He was also a stalwart of Wolverhampton and Stourbridge NFU, where he held a host of posts.

NFU spokesman Ashley Smith confirmed: “We have lost our oldest surviving member, but his name will always be synonymous with the great strides made to feed the nation which British agriculture undertook in the post-war period.

“He was a great innovator and had tremendous energy which enabled him to take a keen interest on his farm until his death”

Away from farming, Mr Solari was a popular figure at Stourbridge Rugby Club and played in the 1933-34 side which went through the entire season undefeated.

He later became a club trustee and then President.

A minute’s silence was held in his memory ahead of Stourbridge’s game against Sheffield Tigers.

Mr Solari leaves a wife, Mary, six children, 21 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.