Monitor farm programme eyes up £2m funding boost

Richard Lochhead said funding will help R&D. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Richard Lochhead said funding will help R&D. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The monitor farm programme is amongst a number of “knowledge transfer” projects to have been awarded a share in £2 million-worth of Scottish Government rural development funding.

Aimed at delivering on-the-ground improvements to the farming sector in Scotland, five projects have been approved for funding through the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF).

The latest round of the monitor farm programme, which will be operated jointly by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and the cereal division of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), will receive £1.25m to set up nine new monitor farms which will concentrate on a “whole farm” approach.

While previous programmes have taken a sectoral approach, the new joint initiative will focus on improving whole business management and profitability. The bodies said that while maximising returns at enterprise level would remain important, the relationships between different enterprises at a business, technical and environmental level would also be explored.

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Other bodies receiving funding will include SAC Commercial for investigations into improving lamb survival and farm profitability; Scotland’s co-operative umbrella group SAOS will pilot an innovative and interactive farm-focused “lean management” approach; Wholesome Pigs Scotland will look at emerging technologies; AHDB Potatoes will set up a Strategic potato farm for Scotland.

Announcing the awards yesterday, cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead said: “This significant funding will help Scotland take advantage of its strong performance in research and development, and make sure that the learning from here and elsewhere can be transferred to on-the-ground improvements in agriculture, ensuring the flow of information and best practice farming into the community, where it can make a real difference to profits.”

Douglas Bell, head of industry development at Quality Meat Scotland, said:“QMS has been at the heart of Scotland’s Monitor Farms programme since the concept was introduced into Scotland in 2003. The blend of farmer to farmer learning, augmented by expert input, has successfully facilitated knowledge transfer and sharing of best practice within the farming sector.

• The AHDB said that the SPot Farm, which gained £150,000 of funding was a unique concept that improved the links between evidence based science and practical activity on-farm.

Project lead and AHDB Potatoes’ technical executive, Claire Hodge said that the SPot Farm was a practical, farmer-driven project to give growers the confidence to implement changes and added that the hunt was now on for a candidate for a host farmers and a steering group to guide the project.

“We’re seeking an innovative grower to work with us to challenge conventional working practices and, using proven research, demonstrate how potato growers can benefit,” said Hodge.