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:

SAOS’ Dougie Watson Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

DougieRuralAwardHuge congratulations to Dougie Watson of SAOS who received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at last night’s Scottish Rural Awards. Dougie received his award from SRUC’s Colin MacEwan.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is specifically awarded to an individual whose impact over time has enhanced the lives of others, without whose efforts a significant detriment or deficit would be effected. Lifetime Achievement does not mean the individual has completed their endeavours, but it does recognise that the individual has committed a significant proportion of their life to those endeavours.

Douglas joined SAOS as a Project Manager nearly 20 years ago and has been hugely influential and supportive in the development of Scotland’s 75 Farmers’ Markets. Douglas’ unending enthusiasm for local foods stimulated its rapid growth to become a linchpin within the Scottish local food and drink sector, and laid the foundations for its ambition and the overall success of the sector today.

He was clearly a very popular recipient of the award as he has helped a huge number of co-ops, businesses and groups across Scotland over the years, many of whom were present at the award ceremony.

The Awards, partnered by Scottish Field magazine and the Scottish Countryside Alliance, are the ultimate benchmark of excellence in rural Scotland. There are 13 categories celebrating the true industry, innovation, dedication and community spirit of those who live and work in our wonderful countryside. Another worthy mention goes to Ringlink Scotland, who were recognised for their Pre-Apprenticeship Scheme and were awarded runner up in the Education category.

Last night’s ceremony and gala dinner took place at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.







The new Data Protection Regulations (GDPR): Understanding your responsibilities

GDPR is coming into force soon, are you ready?

SAOS has organised two seminars specifically for members to help them understand their responsibilities regarding the new data protection regulations which come into force in May 2018. The aim of the seminars is to ensure participants have an improved understanding of what they need to do to prepare and comply with the new GDPR.

The seminars will be delivered by Peter Murray, partner at the law firm Ledingham Chalmers, based in Aberdeen.

There are two sessions available:

  • Wed 28th February – Huntingtower Hotel, by Perth
  • Tues 6th March – Thainstone House Hotel, by Inverurie.

Both seminars will commence with a buffet lunch at Midday with the session running from 12.45 – 3.30pm.

The cost to attend which includes catering is £50 plus VAT (Non-members £100 + VAT). To book a place please contact:  or Tel 07548 215669.

Numbers are limited to 20 places per seminar so booking early is advisable.

Useful background information

The Information Commissioner’s Office has lots of good information, a good start is the following guide:

Co?ops UK has produced an Employee Data Toolkit to guide co?ops through the key changes to the legislation, with a focus on how the GDPR applies in employment –