£21m funding set to give dairy industry a boost

A digital dairy project aiming to create 600 new jobs in South-West Scotland and Cumbria has been awarded more than £21 million of funding.

The new project has an aim to help develop and retain a skilled and innovative workforce in the area to create new products and new ways of working. Led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), it is expected the Digital Dairy Value-Chain could generate an additional £60m a year for a region which produces nearly two billion litres of milk a year.

The project will also aim to help decarbonise the region’s industry. Globally, the industry produces around 3 per cent of greenhouse gases related to human activity.

Although the project is limited to the southern Scotland and Cumbrian area it will have global relevance in bringing forth best practices and changing the perception of dairy as a high-value product.

The project team will work with the dairy industry to develop and implement technologies for sensing and data handling, as well as infrastructure to support innovation and growth for local businesses, nurturing young entrepreneurs and teaching and training of new skills and capabilities. It will deliver advanced manufacturing processes to create a fully integrated and traceable supply chain as well as help businesses to develop new products and explore new markets.

At one end of the chain, farmers are increasingly able to monitor their cows and feeds, their environment and the milking process, while there are also possibilities for sensing and use of data in smart factories producing more and better dairy products.

Having secured £21.3m from the UKRI Strength in Places fund, the project will be based at SRUC’s Barony campus near Dumfries, as well as at sites in Cumbria and across South-West Scotland.

Professor Wayne Powell, principal and chief executive of SRUC, said: “This funding is wonderful news for the dairy industry in Cumbria and South-West Scotland, as well as for the renewal and decarbonisation of the industry as a whole. It will provide a world-class platform for business innovation in advanced, sustainable, high-value dairy production and processing.”

South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) is a partner in the project. Chair of the region’s economic and community development agency, Professor Russel Griggs OBE added: “SOSE is determined to work with our partners to help the South of Scotland maximise the economic opportunities available as we transition to Net Zero, and this digital dairy project is a fantastic example of this collaborative approach.

“Dumfries and Galloway is often referred to as the heartland for dairy farming in Scotland, accounting for almost half of the country’s dairy herd. The investment through this initiative and 600 new jobs it aims to create are potentially game-changing for the industry.

“SOSE is delighted to be involved and look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners on this innovative project, with the aim of helping dairy farming become a sustainable and thriving industry.”

UK science minister Amanda Solloway said: “The fantastic work the Digital Dairy Value-Chain is doing shows that science and innovation is not just for Silicon Valley start-ups, but for dairy farmers too. By using the latest technology for sensing and data handling, the industry will create jobs and opportunity across South-West Scotland and Cumbria.

“This £21.3 million investment is part of the UK Government’s Innovation Strategy we have published today, which outlines how we plan harness the skills and ingenuity of every corner of the UK in order to cement our status as a global science superpower.”

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