‘Great future’ for north-east produce sector
Strategy: Aim to double £2.2bn turnover by 2030
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%