Posted: February 15, 2024

Scotland Office Minister visits Dumfries Monitor Farm

Scotland Office Minister John Lamont has been visiting parts of South West Scotland looking at how digital innovation funded by more than £21 million of UK Government investment is helping to grow the rural economy.

Minister Lamont took a tour of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Barony Campus near Dumfries to understand how the cash boost from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is supporting the milk industry by bolstering the Digital Dairy Chain.

He also called in at nearby Barnbackle Farm, part of the Monitor Farm Scotland Initiative, and one of nine farms involved in a four-year programme to improve sector productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Minister Lamont said:

 “The UK Government is proud to support the United Kingdom’s £127billion food and farming sector as we recognise that British farmers produce some of the highest-quality food in the world and contribute billions to our economy.

“Driving forward new farming schemes like the Digital Dairy Value Chain is exactly where we need to be to ensure the sector remains profitable and sustainable. It’s vital as we build on the commitment to keep producing 60 per cent of the food we consume here in the UK.”

Investment from UKRI’s Strength in Place Fund has been ploughed into SRUC to examine how dairy farmers can best capitalise on the 1.9billion litres of milk produced in the area. The Digital Dairy Value Chain will provide world-class opportunities for research and business innovation in advanced, sustainable, high-value dairy processing.

The five-year project will deliver advanced manufacturing processes to help businesses to develop new products and explore new markets. It’s hoped to create more than 600 new jobs while contributing £60million to the local economy by attracting large dairy processors, boosting industry-focussed research.

Minister Lamont added: “This UK Government investment will really put the area on the world map as a leader in advanced, sustainable, and digitally-connected dairy manufacturing.

“It will offer farmers, processors and producers in the dairy supply chain a valuable resource for support, business development and industry expertise to take the sector from strength to strength and increase the opportunity for growth.”

Professor Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) said: “We were delighted to welcome Mr Lamont to tell him more about the innovative work of the Digital Dairy Chain. Led by SRUC, this hugely exciting project is an excellent example of an innovation cluster, focused on developing digital connectivity, stimulating research, new high-value product development, supporting business growth and attracting talent and skills across South & West Scotland and Cumbria.

“We will soon open the second round of the collaborative R&D funding competition with a pot of £1 million, which is an outstanding opportunity for industry and academia to unite and continue to transform the dairy sector.” 

At the Dumfries Monitor Farm Barnbackle, Minister Lamont heard from the Currie family who run the 500-acre site. With 150 suckler cows, 20 store cattle, and 700 ewes, the family face challenges common to many farmers, including rising feed prices. Looking at solutions including rotational grazing is something the Monitor Farm Programme will support.

Beth Alexander, Monitor Farm Scotland Programme Manager said: “We were delighted to welcome Minister Lamont to the Dumfriesshire Monitor Farm and showcase the work we are doing on one of the nine farms in the programme with rotational grazing, sheep management strategies, and upcoming projects like the 2024 lambing initiative in collaboration with the local vet practice.

“The Monitor Farm programme is farmer-led, farmer-driven and aims to enhance the profitability, productivity, and sustainability of Scotland’s agricultural sector. Through practical demonstrations and the exchange of best practices, we use farmer expertise to progress the industry and address challenges. This visit presents an excellent opportunity for farmers to engage directly with government and share their issues.”



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