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New centre propels Angus to forefront of farm innovation

QUALITY: Potato production will benefit from advances made by the new centre.

Four of the most ambitious names in Scottish farming have been revealed as Angus Council partners in a new multi-million pound project which will propel the region to the forefront of agricultural innovation.

The Centre for Agricultural Sustainable Innovation (CASI) , which will have a headquarters based at Forfar Mart, has made a bid for £15 million of funding from the Angus Fund as part of the Tay Cities Region Deal.

Agrico UK, Arbikie Distilling, the James Hutton Institute and SoilEssentials Ltd  are the businesses which will collaborate through CASI  to drive forward  farm-based sustainable innovation, crop quality, precision agriculture and the development of a neutral spirit.

On-farm Arbikie Distillery.

Unveiling the partnership, Angus Council leader, Councillor David Fairweather, said: “The agriculture industry plays a vital role in international, national and regional strategic priorities for economic development, food security and environmental sustainability.

“The CASI provides the knowledge, practices, technology and opportunities where farmers can play an important role in tackling climate change and protect the environment for the future, as new and innovative approaches to food and drink are developed and financial resources become available to support this growth.”

SoilEssentials managing director, Jim Wilson, said the CASI would assist his precision agriculture company in pulling new innovations into Angus from around the world and help market tools and knowledge  to a global audience.

“Precision agriculture can help meet the challenges of labour availability, technical skill development, soil health, carbon sequestration and the environmental needs of the 21st century,” he said.

Jim Wilson of SoilEssentials

“Global leaders in agri-tech who produce novel technologies including autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and machine vision are eager to trial and develop their products in Angus.

“These new technologies and investments will create new high value jobs and bring exciting opportunities to Angus and Scotland.”

Archie Gibson, the executive director of Agrico UK, said a new potato quality centre would aim to assess multiples of 300 tuber samples from the field or store using state of the art optical sorters capable of reporting size bands, skin finish, while also checking for internal defects.

“In addition to field inspections, these quality assessments will reinforce the reputation of the Scottish seed industry promoting our high grade to seed to export and domestic customers alike,” he said.

Archie Gibson, executive director of Agrico.

“The centre will be open to all potato growers whether growing table potatoes, or certified seed for export or the home market.”

Arbikie director, John Stirling, said developing the world’s first ever circular economy distillery would not only help reduce farm waste, promote cleaner farms, and reduce their environmental footprints but also help the Scottish gin industry make their spirits from Scottish-grown crops.

He said: “As farmers we understand that all crops take the same effort and inputs to grow regardless of whether they meet certain supplier specifications.

John  Stirling at the Arbikie Distillery.

“The distillery will accept all grades and encourage farms to diversify into alternative, more environmentally sustainable crops such as peas and beans. We’ll then turn them into neutral spirit which is used in the production of gin and vodka and nutritious protein rich feed/food.”