The Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) has released its annual report, and says that “innovation and collaboration enabled businesses and supply chains to find new ways to operate” during the pandemic year.
During the yerar, the apex body for Scottish farm co-ops published its strategy for 2025, which CEO Tim Bailey says will see SAOS “strive to bolster the sustainability of our food and farming sector through working together more effectively, with greater determination than ever.
“Many of these opportunities will be underpinned by demonstrating a positive adaptation to climate change, through accrual of the aggregated natural capital of our members, and underpinned by technology-derived data intelligence, helping everyone make better business decisions.
“There are challenges ahead, but opportunities too, and never has there been a better time to capitalise on these by working together for a common purpose.
SAOS accepted two new members, Angus Growers and Scottish Quality Crops, and continued its work with Soil Association Scotland and Scotland’s Rural College “to ensure a very positive conclusion to the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS).
“Over the last year, SAOS-led group projects included a free range egg producers group, Pentland Land Managers’ Association, reducing waste in the cheese sector, and a local authority vegetable supply chain group.”
Last year, SAOS delivered more than 80 days of dedicated advice and mentoring for groups of producers and associations looking to work together. Projects given help include Women In Agriculture Scotland; the establishment of field beans, oats, hemp and sugar beet producer groups; farmers market co-operatives; the establishment of next generation producer groups; and co-op conversions.
SAOS also worked with SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes) Gateway, after receiving a fellowship opportunity to improve and promote the understanding of the value of co-operatives in Scotland.
It has also delivered support to members through the Brexit process, continued work on supply chains and sustainability – with two key workstreams, based around helping farming to adapt to climate change positively, and to realise the value of natural capital across the supply chain.
SAOS completed the second phase of its Market Driven Supply Chain (MDSC) programme and the began its new Future Fit Supply Chains programme.
It said: “The MDSC programme was a significant success, encompassing 16 projects, involving 148 businesses, 1545 farmers/farmer co-op members and 48 organisations. It secured over £55m of sales and efficiency savings, from just over £800,000 of project spend. It also secured £1.8m additional capital investment, 20 new markets were entered, more than 1200 jobs protected, eight new supply chain processes developed, and three new technological advancements employed.”
Chair Mark Clark announced he will be stepping down. He said: “I thank my fellow directors and council members, and you, our members … SAOS’s new, five-year plan has much to contribute to the future of Scotland’s farming and food industry, and I’m delighted to leave the organisation in such fine fettle.”
Tim Bailey added: “ I thank Mark Clark for his unwavering commitment to SAOS over his 17-year tenure and, personally, for his support to me since I succeeded James Graham as CEO.”