A PROJECT that aims to create a set of ground-breaking franchise models for agricultural marketing co-operatives has received a major funding boost from Co-operative Action.
A £ 49,590 grant accounts for a third of the total budget for the Plunkett Foundation's two-year research project.
The end result could help up to 3,000 primary producers to establish viable new marketing co-ops for specific agriculture, horticultural and fisheries products.
"This goes beyond traditional modelling by focusing on the development of a franchise concept," said Sarah Lees of the Co-operative Action Foundation.
"There's nothing different about identifying individual successful models but to systematically replicate them has never been tried before in UK agriculture. It could have significant implications on the way in which the agricultural co-operative sector develops in future."
The Plunkett Foundation ? a recognised specialist in developing self-help co-op solutions for rural communities ? will begin by selecting 12 existing marketing co-ops which have the potential for replication and rollout.
The six highest performers will be selected for in-depth analysis of their key success factors. Franchise models will then be built for pilot testing by farmer groups before being rolled out nationally. Specialist support will be offered on a fee basis.
"Apple marketing co-operatives took over 30 years to fully develop to their current position," said the Plunkett Foundation's head of Training and Consultancy, Quintin Fox. "We intend to distill best practices and key success factors to kick-start these models of tomorrow in a fraction of that time."
Other organisations will be involved in the research ? including the English Farming and Food Partnerships, co-operative development bodies, regional development agencies, the National Farmers' Union, and Defra.
"The UK agricultural sector has not embraced co-operation as fully as its counterparts in Europe," added Mr Fox. "Here there is much greater potential for growth beyond the existing 600 agricultural co-ops.
"Franchise models will stimulate sector growth, introducing co-op values and principles to a greater proportion of farmers ? as well as offering potential benefit to other co-op sectors."
? The Plunkett Foundation can be contacted on 01993 883636 or visit: www.plunkett.co.uk. For details on Co-operative Action, go to: www.co-operativeaction.coop.