Tuesday, 10 November 2021 09:13

Innovative farmers awarded £92,000 for new projects

Funding worth £92,000 has been awarded to a group of Scottish food and drink companies, allowing them to partner with top academics to tackle their business challenges.

A syndicate of farms will partner with four Scottish universities to look into ways of converting waste into clean gases and liquid fuels, while a soft fruit farming group is set to work with academics, a craft distillery and a sweet manufacturer to develop new techniques to produce alcohol and fuel from their waste.

The awards mark the first time a competition has been run for groups, rather than individual businesses, building on Interface Food & Drink’s approach to establishing Common Interest Groups, such as the Scottish Craft Distillers Association and the Scottish Rapeseed Oil Group.

Helen Pratt, project manager at Interface Food & Drink, said: “The entries showed particular strength and expertise in how the businesses and academics would work together and the immediate and longer-term benefits to the food and drink industry and beyond.

“In today’s farming environment, there is increasing pressure to reduce waste, so it’s interesting that both winning entries are for projects which aim not only to reduce waste, but also to convert it into a valued commodity which will benefit the environment and economy.”

The Farm Waste Utilisation Group includes farms in Forfar, Inverurie, Peterhead and Dingwall, and academics from University of Glasgow, University of the West of Scotland, Robert Gordon University and University of Strathclyde. The project will look at how to turn farm waste into clear gases and liquid fuels, and has been awarded £50,000 by Interface Food & Drink to do so.

Matthew Steel, of Craignathro Farms Ltd in Forfar, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to look at how we could use wastes such as manure, woods and biomass residues to produce heat and electricity.

“If farms could turn waste into renewable energy sources through gasification, it would have huge economic and environmental benefits. Apart from the obvious savings on energy bills, it would solve the headache of waste going to landfill.”

Meanwhile the second group, a syndicate of soft fruit growers, won £42,000 to investigate how to produce alcohol from second grade fruit. Working with a craft distillery, a confectionary manufacturer, and academics from Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot Watt University and University of Edinburgh, they will look at sugar-rich by-products from the production of tablet, as well as turning food waste into fuel, fertiliser and chemicals.

William Houstoun, general manager of Angus Growers, said: “As fruit farmers supplying the major supermarkets we are always looking for ways to reduce waste, add value to what we produce and create good news to make the fruit we grow even more attractive to our customers.

“We are delighted at this opportunity to collaborate with academics from Scotland’s universities to develop techniques to turn low value and waste fruit into useful and exciting products.”

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