‘Great fu­ture’ for north-east pro­duce sec­tor

Strat­egy: Aim to dou­ble £2.2bn turnover by 2030

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FARMING | WEATHER - BY PE­TER COOK

The food, drink, agri­cul­ture and fish­ing sec­tor in north­east Scot­land is vi­tally im­por­tant to the fu­ture pros­per­ity of the re­gion.

Growth in the sec­tor, which em­ploys more than 22,000 peo­ple, is an eco­nomic pri­or­ity shared by the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors and is sup­ported with ac­tion and in­vest­ment by Op­por­tu­nity North East (ONE) and re­gional and na­tional part­ners.

The re­gion’s food and drink in­dus­try turnover is ap­prox­i­mately £2.2 bil­lion, equiv­a­lent to 22% of Scot­land’s turnover. With part­ners, our core aim is to dou­ble that fig­ure by 2030.

To do that we need to build on our ex­ist­ing strengths across pri­mary pro­duc­tion, pro­cess­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing to cre­ate an am­bi­tious co­hort of growth com­pa­nies of all sizes, sell­ing pre­mium prod­ucts into in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

Projects we have been work­ing on in­clude a cat­tle sup­ply chain data trans­fer and man­age­ment project, run in part­ner­ship with ANM Group and ScotEID.

We are con­firm­ing plans for the se­cond phase of the project, which could see cat­tle pass­ports be­come a thing of the past with the in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tronic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (EID) tech­nol­ogy.

It can pro­vide re­al­time trace­abil­ity and will cre­ate the op­por­tu­nity for busi­nesses to col­lect and man­age per­for­mance data, for ex­am­ple link­ing meat yields to sires.

The next phase will be in­flu­enced by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s own im­ple­men­ta­tion plans for statu­tory cat­tle EID but our early in­volve­ment in po­ten­tially trans­for­ma­tional tech­nol­ogy could de­liver a real com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage for the re­gion, which process a third of Scot­land’s cat­tle.

Re­lated to this, there is an im­mi­nent revo­lu­tion in low cost in-the-field elec­tric mon­i­tor­ing of live­stock.

What would it do to your sys­tem if you could be no­ti­fied in real time, wher­ever you were, that a cow was calv­ing, or feed in­takes mea­sured for in­di­vid­ual graz­ing beasts? We are work­ing to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties to fos­ter and ap­ply those tech­nolo­gies.

Mean­while, the North East Pig Busi­ness Net­work has seen an im­pres­sive im­prove­ment in the tech­ni­cal per­for­mance of lo­cal pig units, with data col­lec­tion to iden­tify prob­lems and group work on prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions de­liv­er­ing ma­jor div­i­dends.

The op­por­tu­nity to add more value to Scot­tish pig meat is part of the Pig Sec­tor Strat­egy.

Since 2015, pro­duc­tiv­ity has in­creased sharply with pig meat pro­duc­tion per sow in­creas­ing by 20%.

Re­gional dis­ease erad­i­ca­tion mea­sures caused fur­ther en­hanced per­for­mance.

The cul­ture of bench­mark­ing and con­tin­ual im­prove­ment puts the Scot­tish in­dus­try, 60% of which is in the re­gion, in a strong com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion.

Lastly, the ONE food and drink Busi­ness Growth Pro­gramme, co-funded by Aberdeen City Coun­cil and Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil, has sup­ported a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of farms which have moved into food pro­cess­ing.

To pro­vide a long-term fo­cal point for the food, drink and agri­cul­ture in­dus­try in the re­gion we are pre­par­ing the busi­ness case for an am­bi­tious Food Hub for the north-east un­der the Aberdeen City Re­gion Deal.

This will pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties for grow­ing busi­nesses from starter units through to devel­op­ment kitchens, and demo space for the new tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing robotics, which are rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing pro­duc­tion.

Tal­ent at­trac­tion and re­ten­tion is a key is­sue. ONE is help­ing to re­build the vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion struc­ture from post-school ap­pren­tices through to grad­u­ate ap­pren­tice­ships.

ONE sup­ports a shared mod­ern ap­pren­tice­ship scheme which de­liv­ers work-based learn­ing.

Ap­pren­tices work across sev­eral farms to broaden their ex­pe­ri­ence and limit the risk and cost for farm busi­nesses.

These are un­prece­dented times, but if we fo­cus on meet­ing the needs of pre­mium cus­tomers, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally, max­imise our use of tech­nol­ogy so that we op­er­ate faster and more ef­fi­ciently than our com­peti­tors, and if we wel­come and de­velop good peo­ple, we’ve got a great fu­ture.

PROGRESS: Pig meat pro­duc­tiv­ity has risen sharply since 2015, with pro­duc­tion per sow in­creas­ing by 20%

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