Greenshoots: Highlands and Islands innovation projects to benefit food and drink sector



Two innovation projects are underway in the Highlands and Islands to develop new ways to support the growth of the food and drink sector.

Angus-based farming solutions company SoilEssentials Ltd is researching and developing ways to tackle the spread of potato cyst nematode (PCN), one of the most serious threats to Scotland’s potato growing industry.

In another project, Glasgow-based Seawater Solutions Ltd is exploring ways to help farmers on Scotland’s west coast to grow high value salt-resistant crops.

Both projects received funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise (SE) through the Collaborative Innovation Fund, which closed in March. The fund was supported by HIE and SE and formed part of the Make Innovation Happen initiative, aimed at innovations leading to new growth in the food and drink sector.

SoilEssentials is working with a group of farmers as well Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, Scottish Agronomy Ltd, and McCain Foods GB Ltd to develop potential methods to control the potato pest. The 12-month initiative will focus on a new soil sampling approach and land managers will be trained in how to protect the land bank through proactively managing PCN.

Jim Wilson, managing director at SoilEssentials, said: “We are delighted to take part in this important R&D project, which focuses on addressing the challenge of PCN in the Scottish potato growing sector by proving and commercialising an integrated pest management (IPM) concept. It is critical in developing a system that will provide Scottish potato growers with a precision agriculture tool to manage their land bank for growing seed potato crops.”

Last year, Seawater Solutions Ltd successfully trialled the cultivation of saline crops on Ayrshire coastal farmland including samphire and sea-aster. It is currently developing a project on the Glen Shiel Estate in Wester Ross in partnership with the estate and the Burton Property Trust.

Seawater Solutions is working with the Universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh and local community groups over the phase of the project to move the trial to develop fully operational seawater farms across Scotland.

Yanik Nyberg, director at Seawater Solutions, commented: “This project is about developing green economy employment and localised food networks with a strong ecosystem and community-based focus. We are looking forward to rolling out our saltmarsh farms across the Highlands and Islands and encourage any interested individuals and groups to get involved in this green initiative.”

Elaine Jamieson, HIE’s head of food and drink, said: “These projects are innovative, collaborative and entrepreneurial. They focus on working in harmony with the natural environment and are aligned to our ambitions for an inclusive and sustainable economy.

“Experience and evidence tell us that partnership working between businesses and with academics and other innovation providers stimulates fresh thinking and opens new opportunities. We really look forward to seeing the benefits of this work come to fruition.”



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