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Brewery owner claims SeedPod will be ‘amazing asset’ for food and drink sector

Plans for SeedPod were approved earlier this week.
Plans for SeedPod were approved earlier this week.

Aberdeen’s new SeedPod food and drink hub will be an “amazing asset” for the industry in the north-east, according to a leading brewery owner.

The £21 million development, which was given the green light by councillors yesterday, aims to play a pivotal role in boosting the region’s green economic recovery as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

Led by Opportunity North East (One), the project is expected to bring a major boost to the area and will help those businesses, which are only just starting to find their feet, to become more sustainable.

Through a collaboration of expert knowledge, training, specialist equipment and manufacturing support, Seedpod will act as a business incubator aimed at putting the north-east of Scotland on the global map as an area of excellence in the field.

Robert Lindsay, the founder and managing director of Aberdeen craft brewery Six Degrees North, has previously benefitted from the help of One’s food and drink board.

He hailed the potential impact of the development on the area’s food and drink sector.

Mr Lindsay said the facility, which will be built at the Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) campus at Craibstone, will create “new jobs and opportunities” for businesses in the north-east.

North-east ‘nationally significant’ for food and drink

“SeedPod is going to be an amazing asset for the industry, in the region and nationally, and will amplify this approach to the sector’s growth,” he said.

Six Degrees North owner Robert Lindsay.

“There are big challenges and opportunities ahead. SeedPod’s unique mix of facilities, support and advice, and insights in one place will give us a real advantage across priorities including market and product development, sustainability, skills, and manufacturing.

“The region is already a nationally significant place for food and drink manufacturing.

“SeedPod is going to drive new growth that will create new jobs and opportunities across businsses of all sizes.”

One was established in 2015 as a direct response to helping the region recover from the oil and gas downturn.

Described as a “private sector catalyst” it aims to drive transformational change in the region’s economy, with the food and drink sector chosen as one of its main focuses.

The brainchild of Sir Ian Wood, One has a 10-year £62 million funding commitment from The Wood Foundation and uses its resources to secure match funding to deliver new projects.

To date, it has committed £14m to projects and secured £42m from partners.

One vice-chairman Patrick Machray OBE described the SeedPod as “critical” to the north-east’s economic future.

Patrick Machray at an Opportunity North East Board Meeting in 2019. Picture by Abermedia / Michal Wachucik

“Food and drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, turns over £2.2 billion in north-east Scotland every year and already provides more than 22,000 jobs in the region. It is our largest industry after energy,” he said.

“Its growth is critical to our economic future as it can deliver more and higher-value jobs, increase exports of premium products to high-margin markets and play a key role in the drive to a low-carbon economy.”

What is SeedPod?

The Craibstone site where the project is to be developed was chosen from a possible 18 across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire due to its proximity to SRUC, which is a “strategic partner” in the project, as well as Aberdeen International Airport and the AWPR.

One describes SeedPod as a “centre of excellence” for food manufacturing and production which will put businesses “at the forefront of innovation, productivity and sustainability”.

Experts predict it could increase the north-east food and drink industry’s turnover by up to 5% every year by helping companies adopt new technologies and through market and product development opportunities.

It will also provide production space for start-ups and development facilities for fast-growing businesses.

The planned interior of the SeedPod.

Firms will be able to use specially created training programmes and equipment, including incubator systems and commercial-grade manufacturing units.

They will also have access to development kitchens, storage units, presentation areas and spaces for businesses to collaborate.

One has contributed £4.4m of funding towards the initiative, which also includes £10m from the Aberdeen City Region Deal – backed by the UK and Scottish Governments.

Andy Kille, Aberdeenshire Council leader and convener of the city region deal joint committee, said the SeedPod would lead to new opportunities “for the region’s people and communities”.

“Food and drink is a major industry and employer in north-east Scotland with a critical role to play in economic recovery and growth,” he added.

“SeedPod – supported by the Aberdeen City Region Deal – will provide facilities, resources and tools for businesses of all sizes to grow, create new jobs and opportunities for the region’s people and communities.”

Following the granting of planning permission, One said it plans to move the project forward “at pace”.

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