A RISS project which aims to keep dairy calves with their mothers for longer and another trying to grow organic oilseed rape on a commercial scale are among those that will share more than £340,000 of investment.
Awarded through the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF), the new funding will drive forward innovation in farming and food production and help businesses shift to a low carbon climate-resistant economy.
Announcing the funding, Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon said:
“As we face a global climate emergency, investing and supporting innovative research within our agricultural sector has never been more important. Farming is sometimes singled out as a climate offender, often by those who do not fully understand or appreciate its importance to our rural communities, or the work our farmers do to protect our environment.
“With this latest funding the Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund has now invested around £5.7 million in projects that will help us continue to grow a sustainable, vibrant and innovative rural economy.”
Picture: Wilma and David Finlay of the Ethical Dairy based at Rainton Farm, Castle Douglas
Colleen McCulloch of Soil Association Scotland, which helped set up the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS) group that brought the ‘cow with calf’ project together, said:
“David and Wilma Finlay, who are running the project at Rainton Farm in Castle Douglas, are at the forefront in Europe of turning this high welfare dairy system into a successful, commercial operation. Keeping calves with their mother has benefits beyond welfare, for example for rose veal and beef supply, as well as grassland management and biodiversity, but is commercially challenging.
“The KTIF funding will allow Dr Marie Haskell of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) to run a year’s pilot project to track the progress of the Finlays’ operation and trial it on several other farms, with the aim of establishing a blueprint that could be adopted by any interested farm.”
The Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund is delivered through the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) 2014-20. The scheme will fund eligible innovation projects under the European Innovation Partnership.
Newly Approved Projects
Pleurisy Reduction in Scottish Pigs - Wholesome Pigs - £47,300
This project aims to better understand the environmental, health and management conditions that impact on the incidence and severity of pleurisy, and to share experiences with the entire Scottish pig sector. It includes investigations and interventions to improve environment and health on 12 farms and disseminate the information through meetings, written material and three video case studies.
Grass Roots – SRUC - £53,073.18
The aim of this project is to deploy novel participatory and crowd-sourcing methods to close the gap described by farmers between them and grass breeders. They hope this will better inform and drive innovation in the variety and seed mixes sector, and in the management systems the farmers deploy. The project expects to target 2,000 farmers and link them in a virtual group so that peer-to-peer experiences can be shared, data on preferences and performance gathered.
Scottish Organic CANola – SRUC - £29,982.99 (RISS)
A group which is developing a reliable system of organic canola production in Scotland to fulfil an as-yet untapped market. They wish to demonstrate the viability of growing organic canola under Scottish conditions in order to open up a new potentially lucrative source of income and provide alternative, locally produced livestock feed or feed supplement, as well as the potential for supplying even more valuable human markets.
Digital Farms – Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) - £54,675
This project uses is using a form of low power, wireless communication to allow whole farms to be digitally connected. This offers a simple, low cost way for farmers to collect data. SmartRural, SNH and RSABI are also involved. The project aims to equip farmers with the data and insights required to tackle the key challenges the industry face, issues such as: improving productivity, inefficiency and waste, improving environmental management, dealing with a shrinking labour force and extreme weather events, meeting climate change targets, and the lack of profitability.
Scotch Beef Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Traceability and Performance – Quality Meat Scotland - £94,800
This project is designed to prove several concepts around the use of DNA analysis for meat traceability and integrity and cattle performance development. The potential impact of this project is around 12,000 cattle holdings in Scotland. The wide reach of this project offers to deliver value for money, potential return on investment and securing the confidence of the consumer and the farmer by providing full DNA traceability to the Scotch beef brand.
Keeping Cow with Calf – SRUC - £60,412.5
At Rainton Farm in Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway, dairy cows and their calves are kept together for five months (cow with calf system). Standard modern dairy farm practice involves separating the cow and calf within 24 hours of birth. The project aims to use the ‘ethical dairy’ as a model to characterise the cow with calf system and on-farm rearing. Its purpose is to improve environmental and social aspects of farming. The ethical dairy would be used as a model with the intention of extending this to innovative farmers making Scotland a leader in ethical dairying.