NEF Co-ops Unleashed

We have just added a new report to our Resource Library which will be of interest to students of co-operatives.

More than half of UK company equity is owned abroad and only just over 12% by individuals. The interests of those who own Britain’s businesses are often misaligned with those of other stakeholders, such as employees, customers, service users and local communities. NEF co-ops-unleashed  highlights the needs for a supportive policy environment, with availability of know-how to co-operators.

You can find all our resource documents and reports here: SAOS Resource Library

New Chair and Vice Chair for SAOS

Mark Clark SAOS Chairman

Mark Clark SAOS Chairman

Following our AGM, Mark Clark was appointed as the new Chairman of SAOS, succeeding George Lawrie. Our new Vice Chairman is John Hutcheson.

Mark, Managing Director of Grampian Growers, brings strong business acumen to the role, with Grampian Growers having developed and expanded their range of varieties of seed potatoes, as well as daffodil bulbs and flowers, to explore new export markets in many different areas of the world, each with its own set of challenges.

John is a Director of Tay Forth Machinery Ring, having been a member since the ring was established in 1989. He is also a Director of GrainCo Scotland and, as member of their OatCo producer group, works closely and successfully with Quaker PepsiCo, sharing the benefits resulting from a growing market for oat products.

We are delighted that Mark has accepted the role of Chairman and we look forward to working more closely with him. Mark commented: “This is a very challenging, but also exciting time to lead SAOS. The challenges to agriculture continue to increase rather than dissipate, and farm profitability is under more and more pressure, but I believe that the structure of SAOS, the strong leadership and very committed staff will result in continued success in the future. I firmly believe that greater co-operation within the industry is one of the few answers to many of the problems we face and SAOS is well-placed to facilitate the anticipated growth of the co-op sector.”

John Hutcheson SAOS Vice Chairman

John Hutcheson SAOS Vice Chairman

John agreed, adding: “SAOS continues to adapt and develop the services that our co-op members require and ensure that the correct resource is in place to do this. Rural businesses need to communicate and collaborate more with each other; I think there is further potential for Rings to work with each other in order to lower input costs and extend the range of services available. I’d also like to see more producer-controlled marketing groups for primary produce, with the aim of creating greater price leverage in the marketplace and quality assurance branding that targets specific customer requirements.”

SAOS Summer Update now Available

The SAOS Update for Summer ’18 is now out  

View our older SAOS Updates here: SAOS newsletters


Scotland’s Farmer Co-ops are Leading Industry Innovation

That future farm policy should include incentives for innovation through co-operation, was a central theme of SAOS’ proposals to Scottish Government and the Cabinet Secretary’s Agriculture Champions last year.  We built our case, in part, on the evidence of highly successful PO’s in Scotland’s fruit and vegetable sector, and on the clear need to ensure that ‘smart marketing’ further down the supply chain, collaborates more effectively in future with ‘smart farming’ here in Scotland, utilising data technologies and more collaborative business models.  Co-operation and co-ops are positioned to drive forward the innovation and chain relationships that are required, enabling shared risk taking and scalability both amongst farmers and in connections with supply chain customers.

The Cabinet Secretary’s Agriculture Champions observed that: “We have discussed collaboration at length with our contributors and are struck by how many benefits it can bring: economies of scale in purchasing and selling; sharing of specialist machinery and staff; market information; risk management; logistics; branding and marketing”, and they conclude: “We see great potential in encouraging greater use of collaboration.”

James Graham, SAOS Chief Executive, says: “There is real value for farmers in pulling together their data and utilising it in the supply chain to meet customer needs on the one hand, and to help direct farm decision making for profit margin on the other.  Co-ops are best placed to do this, naturally enabling farmers to pool information, act cohesively, and retain ownership of their data.  All co-op members should now be asking what their co-op is doing about these opportunities, and I suggest that farmers not involved in marketing in co-operation with other farmers should looking at their options to do so.”


SFL co-op news14cropCurrent examples of co-op innovation

The following examples provide an indication of the scope of current innovation projects in co-ops. Whilst many more are underway, not all are at a stage that can be publicised.

  • The six Focus Farms in the ANM Group/Farmers Journal Farm Profit Programme have experienced an average increase in gross margin/cow of £115 in year one. Weekly updates on the Focus Farms’ progress is now reaching 2,000 article views per week, proving an effective route for knowledge exchange between livestock producers. ANM Group has over 4,000 farmer members.
  • Farm Stock Scotland, in collaboration with supply chain partners, is working to identify farm management factors to enable year-round supply of ‘M&S Scotch lamb’.
    This includes researching and piloting a new specification. Farm Stock has nearly 1,000 sheep farmer members.
  • New markets in the Far East for Scottish seed potatoes have been developed for the last two years by Grampian Growers.
    This year the co-op will also trial potato plots in Zimbabwe and Kenya.  There are 30 seed producers in Grampian Growers
  • Through the involvement of SAOS, the Milk Suppliers Association (MSA) has completed 25 on-farm lean management reviews, resulting in average identified savings of several pence per litre. The MSA has 180 dairy farmer members producing 220ML supplying the Stranraer creamery.
  • First Milk has a continuing long-term collaboration with Nestlé, which focuses on continuous improvements in milk quality, lean farming methods (enabling a reduction in GHG emissions), environmental sustainability (soil, water and biodiversity), the next generation of farmers, and animal welfare.
  • Ringlink Scotland has devised the first pre-apprenticeship scheme targeted at school leavers, to address an increasingly acute skills shortage in the industry. This has been devised in direct response to the needs of members. Ringlink has 2900 members.



Innovation Through Co-operation

Agricultural co-operatives perform an essential role in the supply chain of Scottish food and farming businesses. They are a vital link, bringing scale and collective access to markets for farmers and food producers, which would not be attainable as individual businesses.

Co-ops offer a strategic interface to support fragile rural communities stretching across the key pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability. Without the capabilities and added value that is strategically and collaboratively delivered by the co-op sector, the success and growth of both Scottish agriculture and the food and drink sectors would undoubtedly be constrained and diminished.

DocHdl1OnPRINECTSVRtmpTargetScotland Food & Drink’s ‘Ambition 2030′ places great emphasis on supply chain development, in particular to build greater connection with – and drive greater profitability across – the agriculture industry. SAOS’ Co-operative Development Programme is a key delivery arm of that work.

The Ambition 2030 strategy has established the bold target of growing the food and drink sector in Scotland to £30bn by 2030. It is recognised that achieving this stretch target will require unprecedented levels of innovation and collaboration at every point in the supply chain and a deeper level of engagement with primary agriculture.

This strategy comes at a time of hastening political, social, environmental and technological change, not least uncertainty over Brexit outcomes and the impact upon agriculture. It also sits against a backdrop of an agricultural sector in which productivity is growing more slowly than many of our major competitors. Indeed, productivity has become one of the biggest challenges of our era. Increasingly, Scottish levels of agricultural productivity will be critical if we are to be competitive in global markets and in ensuring that our industry can become less dependent on direct support as we move away from the Common Agricultural Policy. Furthermore, productivity is a key driver in overcoming the environmental challenges we face. Productivity and environmental responsibility go hand in hand.

The objective of SAOS’ Co-operative Development Programme is to contribute, through the development of farmers’ co-operatives and co-operation, towards the following outcomes:

  • Sustainable growth in agricultural profitability through increased market-orientation, competitiveness and resource efficiency
  • Better connection of agriculture with the food and drink sector
  • Higher levels of resilience in agriculture to shocks and future challenges
  • A lower carbon and more climate-resilient economy in the agricultural and food sector
  • Increased productivity achieved through accelerated innovation

To view SAOS’ Co-op Sector Development Programme for 2018/19 go to: