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Pilot Programme Launched to Drive Digital Innovation in North East Food, Drink and Agriculture Industry

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A NEW pilot programme and fund designed to stimulate and test digital technology developments within the food, drink and agriculture sector, was announced today by Opportunity North East (ONE).

The 12-month AgriFood Tech Boost Programme will begin with two workshops. Designed to raise awareness of the digital opportunity for north east primary supply and food and drink businesses and connect them to technology companies in the region, the workshops will catalyse the creation of new digital innovations focused on productivity improvements – assisted by a small supporting fund.

ONE will work with food, drink and agriculture businesses with promising ideas, to test their proposition and link them to technology expertise and funding sources for further development.

These next stage proposals will then be assessed by a panel of experts and matching-funding provided to the most promising developments where there is a proven external funding need, to progress their innovation to a “proof of concept” stage.

The pilot programme focuses on small scale technology innovation to solve real business problems – whether that be an app offering livestock monitoring capability, adapting a machine to work digitally via heat or optical sensors, or building a data system to better inform decisions or improve marketing.

The announcement was made at the AgriFood Tech Boost Programme’s first workshop for the agriculture sector – ‘Future Farming – Be Part of the Technology Revolution’ – at Lochter Activity Centre in Oldmeldrum. It saw over 120 farmers, supply chain businesses, technology companies and technology specialists build knowledge of successful technology adoption, bespoke software developments and the latest available technology through presentations, demonstrations and networking. The workshop was delivered in partnership with Scotland’s Rural College and the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society.

The next workshop, targeted at food and drink manufacturing companies, will take place at the ONE Tech Hub in April.

Patrick Machray, Chair of the ONE Food, Drink and Agriculture Board said: “Our ambition is to help increase productivity of the north east’s food and drink businesses by 25% by 2025. New technology developments within real business situations are vital to achieving this, with the potential to radically improve growth rates, efficiency and profitability of farms and food and drink businesses of all sizes.

This programme is the first step in positioning the region as a leader in productivity growth, with the expertise required to apply and develop these technologies. These concepts will be further embraced by the food and drink industry through our existing activity and the future development of SeedPod – the food and drink development hub, due for completion in 2022.”

The AgriFood Tech Boost Programme follows the successful delivery of a series of technology-led projects by ONE in 2019. The Cattle Supply Chain Digital Data Transfer and Management scheme has created the Cloud-based database to gather data from electronic tags on livestock and the electronic data transfer capability to do so in real time across the north east of Scotland.

Similarly, the north east Pig Business Network – which facilitated information exchange between pig farmers, the adoption of technology and rapid performance improvement – has increased productivity at the central monitor farm near Inverurie by 25% and delivered the best practice lessons across the entire region.

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