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.