This week we ran the Co-op Chairmen’s Forum

Jim Booth tells us about the SAOS Co-op Chairmen Forum that took place this week at Huntingtower Hotel.

“We had a very successful forum meeting earlier this week. There is simply tremendous value in getting a group of co-op chairman (and vice chairs) in the same room. The forum’s purpose was certainly achieved:

  • To facilitate co-op chairmen to come together to share knowledge, experiences and identify best practice in a safe, closed environment
  • To develop individual knowledge and capability to improve co-op performance.
  • To form a network of co-op chairs/vice chairs for mutual support
  • To provide bespoke governance training as required.

Chairmen's Forum Dec 2018Most of those who attended are pictured right. From left to right: James Graham, SAOS who facilitated the day with me; Patrick Stephen, Scottish Pig Producers; Peter Salmon, Grampian Growers; Richard Buttterworth, Scotlean Pigs; Robin Austin, Tarff Valley; John Hutcheson, SAOS; Guy Lee, Borders Machinery Ring; Jim Mason, Scottish Agronomy; Pete Watson, ANM Group and Ian Watson, Farm Stock Scotland.

The topics covered by the group at the meeting were:

1 – Brexit and Future Policy – assessing the current position and acknowledging that while uncertainty continues, the ability to plan is constrained.

2 – The Innovation Process – looking at how co-op boards adopt an innovation strategy, and to understand the process of innovation better.

3 – What lessons can be learned from the failure of a co-op.

4 – Monitoring Co-op Performance – exercising accountability and monitoring the performance of the business is one of the key responsibilities of the board. It is about ensuring the business is performing as planned and taking early corrective action when required.”


SAOS Next Generation Award Nominations – closing date 3 Dec

The SAOS Next Generation Award is part of SAOS’ work looking at ways to encourage, motivate and recognise younger people involved in rural co-ops.

Once again we’re looking for nominees for the award, which will be presented at our conference in January. Nominees must be 40 or younger, and be an employee, farmer member or director of a co-op. Nominations should show how they have made an impression with their leadership, vision and commitment to co-operation.

Stephen Young, Project Manager, commented: “The Next Generation Award presents a great opportunity to give well-deserved recognition to a young person leading the way in industry. I’d encourage members to put forward nominations for someone they believe deserves this award.”

Kate Drever Next GenOur most recent Next Generation Award winner is Kate Drever (pictured left receiving her award from former Chairman, George Lawrie). Kate has proved herself to be more than worthy of the recognition, having since been appointed as General Manager of Aberdeen Grain.

Full details regarding nominations are listed below.

Please send your nominations to by Monday, 3rd December.


• Under 40
• Employee, member or director of a member co-op
• Nominated by a member, employee or director of a co-op

The basic tenet is that they are working to enhance the co-op and do things for members which are an improvement on what has gone before. We are looking for someone who has shown the following traits:
• Gone beyond what would be ‘expected’ in their job at this stage of their career
• Shown leadership
• Challenged standard thinking
• Brought innovation to the co-op
• Promoted the work of the co-op either internally or externally
• Exemplifies the principles of co-operatives and co-operation
• Is well-respected within the co-op and farming communities

Submissions should include:
• Name of the Nominee
• Name of the Nominator
• Detail of how the Nominee has made an exceptional contribution in their field (max 500 words)

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of SAOS directors and staff.

Our latest ‘Co-op Shorts’ video features Scottish Agronomy

You can view all our videos at SAOS Co-op Shorts


Helen Glass reports from last week’s SmartRural event

SmartRural’s ‘outside-in’ pilot scheme is trialling how to use technology to deliver improvements for residents and businesses in a rural setting.

Helen was one of the attendees at an event last week which drew key stakeholders to Stonehaven to find out more!

She tells us: “The room buzzed with conversations at the vibrant and informative event where the audience was captivated by the double bill of SmartRural – a LoraWAN (Long Range Wide Area Networks) proposition, supported by SAOS, to bring the ‘listening infrastructure’ into the rural space, together with the Small Robot Company, who have an amazing vision for farming in the future.

The group, ranging from public sector organisations to farmers, visited a base station on a local farm where the prototype has stood the test of all weather scenarios during 2018.
SmartRural2Could the IoT (Internet of Things) be coming to a farm near you ? It’s certainly worth watching the progress of SmartRural in the South Stonehaven bowl and the vision of a farmer inspired tech company But remember to pack your wellies for the farm visit!”

(There’s also an article about Smart Rural in our Autumn SAOS Update newsletter



SAOS Chief Executive Announces Intention to Step Down

SAOS is recruiting for a new Chief Executive after James Graham informed the Board that he wishes to step down from the role in 2019, after almost 21 years in post.

Mark Clark, Chairman of SAOS and Managing Director of Grampian Growers, said: “Thanks to James, SAOS has a unique culture that embraces innovation, and he has attracted and retained an exceptional staff team. Over his tenure, the organisation has built on its core values of co-operation and collaboration, securing lead roles in supply chain development and the development of ScotEID, Scotland’s livestock traceability system. At the same time, SAOS’ strategic support and training services for agricultural co-ops have stepped up substantially.”

Mr Clark added: “James leaves SAOS in excellent shape for his successor and we now begin the search for that person. We’re looking for an action-orientated, strategic thinker, who is commercially-minded, practical and motivated to lead innovation in the industry. They will need to demonstrate that they can lead the strong SAOS team, and exert influence at this formative time for agricultural, food industry and rural policies.”

James Graham SAOS CEOJames will continue to champion and influence the case for agricultural co-operation and supply chain collaboration in Scotland Food & Drink strategies and in government policies. He commented: “After a challenging, but rewarding, 20 years, it’s time for someone else to take lead responsibility at SAOS, but I look forward to supporting my successor in any way I can.”

The job application pack is at