Current RISS groups

 The best ideas in farming come from farmers themselves. Here you can see all the ground-breaking ideas that our RISS groups are working on.


To read the page turner booklet click here 

 

For more information on any of these projects, or to send us your own idea for a project, call or email Analy Hannah on 0131 666 2474 or ahannah@soilassociation.org.

Our RISS Groups

Adding Value to Estate Game

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Aberdeenshire
Group coordinator: Ceri Ritchie, SAC Consulting

This group brought together estates in Aberdeenshire and supply chain businesses to explore the idea of approaching shot game as a market opportunity rather than as vermin or a sporting by-product. It looked to capitalise on the increased focus on local food and food tourism, investigating the potential for collaborative brand and product development.

Six estates are now working with a Fife-based processor to make game bird products such as pheasant pies, breasts and burgers.

 

Learn more

Alternative Sheep Housing

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Ayrshire, Renfrewshire
Group coordinator: Robert Ramsay, SAC Consulting

The benefits of housing sheep are well-recognised, but having adequate buildings and bedding can be a challenge. This group is investigating lower-cost alternatives which are not widely used in the UK, such as:

  • slatted systems using existing buildings;
  • slatted outdoor yards;
  • outdoor non-slatted yards;
  • use of alternative bedding materials;
  • extending the life of some older cattle buildings for use by sheep; and
  • low-cost buildings.

The group is composed of farmers who would like to come up with published practical guidance based on their findings on these alternatives, which could be used by other farmers in Scotland.

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Beef Cow Stars

Project stage: Discontinued
Location: Scotland
Group coordinator: Robert Logan, SAC Consulting

The group wanted to better identify poorly performing cows for cull and identify the best heifers for future herd replacements.

They wanted to then interpret herd data to validate performance against the estimated genetic potential of breeding bulls.

They hoped to develop a strong, futureproofed breeding programme that supports resilient beef businesses through greater profit and performance consistency, within herds and across seasons.

There is no capacity to continue the group activities for now.

Learn more

Better Hill Sheep Farms

 

Project stage: Complete
Location: Scotland and Northern Ireland
Group coordinator: Poppy Frater, SAC

This pre-existing group of performance-recording hill farmers from across Scotland and Ireland, SRUC researchers and a veterinary clinician had been undecided on the best way to improve the profitability of hill farming. Through the RISS process, they decided to focus on marketing the benefits of hill sheep as breeding stock to other farmers.

They have now recruited a marketing person to take their idea forward, under the name Maternal Sheep Group.

Read their story

Learn more

Cow with Calf Dairy Project

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Dumfries and Galloway
Group coordinator: Scott Petrie, on behalf of Soil Association Scotland

This group aims to scale up the cow-with-calf system developed by the Ethical Dairy at Rainton Farm, where calves are kept with their mothers until weaning.

There is increasing public and industry interest in the animal welfare aspects of this model, plus the potential of its dairy/beef cross breeds to produce rose veal.

The group will look at producing a viable model that can be transferred to other farms.

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Dehydrated Vegetable Development

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: East Ayrshire, Fife and across Scotland
Group coordinator: Paul Mayfield, SAC

There are potential markets in pet and human snacks and in food manufacturing for using misshapen vegetables, but these are mostly served by imports, and most of this is freeze dried which is energy intensive.

The group of vegetable farmers, a sustainable energy engineer and a snack producer aims to create a Scottish dehydration facility that uses sustainable energy to produce a Scottish product that will replace a proportion of these imports.

They are currently looking for funding towards building the facilities.

Learn more

Fighting Liver Fluke Sustainably

Project stage: Complete
Location: Dumfries and Galloway
Group coordinator: Heather Stevenson, SAC

This group of farmers and vets researched effective and sustainable ways of controlling liver fluke disease.

The group concluded that a whole farm approach is needed, requiring forward planning, commitment, and a willingness to make changes.

They highlighted that farms should not rely on animal treatments, but should consider measures such as planting trees in wet areas, better grazing management and slatted sheds.

Read their story

Learn more

Tea Scotland

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Scotland
Group coordinator: Alistair Trail, SAC

Tea Scotland brings together a group of tea growers from across Scotland with a plant genetics expert and horticulture students from SRUC.

They will use Simple Sequence Repeats (SSR) and cluster analysis to identify genome markers in tea, in order to better understand the genetics of Scottish tea.

They then plan to carry out trials to optimise tea growing, testing growing conditions such as soil and temperature to produce the best final product.

Learn more

 

 

 

From Wood to Winter Bedding

Project stage: Complete
Location: West coast of Scotland
Group coordinator: Fergus Younger, SAOS

This group is exploring the potential of converting low-value farm woodland timber into woodchip and wood-fines for use as livestock winter bedding material.

They received Scottish Government KTIF funding for four farms to trial different kinds of woodchip and for a soil scientist to test the effect of spreading mulch on soils.

Read their story

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Gluten Free Oat Quality and Traceability

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: North-east Scotland
Group coordinator: Paul Mayfield, SAC

As there is currently no gluten-free assurance scheme for oats, this group is investigating the possibility of developing one, along with a reliable system that assures traceability, provenance and quality. They are working with an Edinburgh-based data company to use distributed ledger technology, or blockchain, as a way to make this happen.

This would mean a shopper could scan a QR code and trace the oats back to their producer. In August 2019 they received funding from the Scottish Government’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF) to develop the platform.

Read their story

Learn more

Grazing Winter Cereals with Sheep

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Angus/Perthshire
Group coordinator: Zach Reilly, SAC

This group of arable and livestock farmers are developing guidelines and tips for best practice when grazing winter cereals with sheep. Although not widely practiced at present, this used to be commonplace.

The farmers are holding informal trials to see if cereals can extend the grazing season and reduce forage costs, and initial indications are positive.

Learn more

Hennovation Scotland

Project stage: Discontinued
Location: Scottish Borders
Group coordinator: Kate Still, Innovative Farmers

This group aimed to find environmentally friendly and innovative ways of reducing injurious feather pecking in free range and organic laying hens.

This abnormal foraging behaviour is usually a result of stress, where birds are not able to perform essential natural behaviours such as foraging and dust bathing. It is also related to breed.

The group consisted of four laying hen producers, an egg packer and a researcher. There was no capacity to continue the group.

Learn more

Industrial Hemp for Biomass and Oil

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Aberdeenshire and across Scotland
Group coordinator: George Noble, SAOS

Hemp could potentially meet the demand for low-cost biomass fuel, as well as produce valuable oil and other innovative products such as construction materials and food ingredients.

The group has so far brought together five farmers, the Rowett Institute, SRUC, a renewable energy company and a circular economy business.

They are looking at agronomy, licensing requirements, sustainability, harvesting and processing, as well as key market opportunities.

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Land Matching Service

Project stage: Complete
Location: Scotland
Group coordinator: Stephen Young, SAOS

This group explored possible models for a Scottish land matching service to match farmers with available land. The facilitator brought together the NFUS, the Land Commission, SAYFC, land agents, SLE and National Forestry Estate tenants and helped them work towards a proposal.

Scottish Government accepted the proposal and launched the service in October 2019 with former Head of Agricultural Policy Ian Davidson in the role of ‘honest broker’. 

Read the group story

Read about the launch of the new service

Learn more

Mobile Abattoir in Scotland

Project stage: Complete
Location: Fife, Perth, Aberdeenshire and Caithness
Group coordinator: Fergus Younger, SAOS

Many small-scale abattoirs have closed in mainland Scotland, and access to large facilities is not easy for small producers.

This group has split into two, with a Fife group of farmers and a vet looking to gain access to a large, local abattoir by co-ordinating their livestock. In Aberdeenshire, a group of farmers is still exploring mobile solutions, working with a group in England who have a ‘pop up’ abattoir in the pipeline.

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Organic Rapeseed Supply Chain

Project stage: Complete
Location: North-east Scotland
Group coordinator: Jim Booth, SAOS

This group brings together farmers with feed processor Norvite to grow oilseed rape organically and on a commercial scale, to shorten the protein feed supply chain.

The group visited Sweden to learn from growers who are producing organic oilseed rape on a commercial scale, in similar environmental conditions to Scotland. The farmers here have planted the crop, and aim to work with an SRUC researcher to formalise the trials on three farms.

Read their story

Learn more

PolyProduce Project

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Northern Scotland and Outer Hebrides
Group coordinator: Rob Black/Calum Johnston, SAC

Improvements in polytunnel technology have made it possible to grow fruit and vegetables in the far north of Scotland. This group aims to create a local supply chain to bring this produce to market.

So far the group has interested distributors, restaurant and shop managers and growers on Harris and Lewis and a smaller group will move forward with forming a supply structure all interested parties can feed into.

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Recycling Plastic Farm Waste

Project stage: Complete
Location: Aberdeenshire
Group coordinator: Ewan Johnston, SAC

Following the ban on burning farm plastic, this group of eight farmers explored options for reuse and recycling of farm plastics.

The group consulted with the local council, recycling companies and biotech companies to reduce the quantity of single-use plastics, find markets for waste plastics, and assess the feasibility of biodegradable plastics and alternative ways to conserve forage.

They learned about the complexity of this issue and were unable to find an innovative solution for now.

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Rural Workers Co-op Group

Project stage: Complete
Location: South-west Scotland
Group coordinator: Stephen Young, SAOS

This group initially aimed to establish a farmer-owned labour agency in south-west Scotland. Comprising farmers, Tarff Valley agricultural co-op and the South West Machinery Ring, the group quickly identified that the real issue behind the shortage of farm labour was the dearth of new entrants to farming and related training and career development.

They accessed some Scottish Government pre-apprenticeship funding, and Tarff Valley will now attempt to develop training with partners such as Lantra and SRUC.

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Scottish Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Scotland
Group coordinator: Alistair Trail, SAC

This group of Scottish rapeseed oil producers aims to increase either the efficiency or quality of high-end rapeseed oil production in Scotland and develop its market.

The group is looking into chemical composition and health, the impact of high heat cooking and the growing environment alongside academics from several Scottish institutions.

Learn more

Scottish PRRS Elimination Project

Project stage: Complete
Location: Aberdeenshire, Morayshire and Angus
Group coordinator: Calum Johnston, SAC

RISS offered facilitation to a large industry group trying to find a strategy to tackle Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) – one of the costliest diseases in the pig sector.

The facilitator helped the group identify a funded stream and secure £80,000 from the Scottish Government’s KTIF fund for a pilot programme in the Moray region. A Veterinary Investigation Officer from SRUC has since been appointed to co-ordinate the project.

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Skye Mutton Project

Project stage: Complete
Location: Isle of Skye
Group coordinator: Janette Sutherland, SAC

This group explored the economic feasibility of developing mutton as an ingredient for island menus.

They held a successful dinner showcasing the meat in conjunction with tourist body Skye Connect, Three Chimneys restaurant and West Highland College.

The group has evolved since the end of its activities and they now formed the Skye Food Ltd. They have on their board crofters, farmers and chefs to try and co-ordinate the supply of Skye lamb and mutton for restaurants in the first instance.  

Read their story

Learn more

Speeding up Dairy Cattle Breeding

Project stage: Complete
Location: South-west Scotland
Group coordinator: Hamish Walls, SAOS

This group of grass-based dairy farmers is working to improve productivity by combining genetic testing with existing herd data, and then using reproductive technologies to speed up the time it takes to get the best cows back into the herd.

Working with a genetic scientist, they received KTIF funding for the first stage: genomic ranking, and are still seeking funding for the full breeding programme.

Read the group story

Read about the KTIF funding

Learn more

Standard for Livestock Mineral Supplements

Project stage: Complete
Location: West Fife and Kinross
Group coordinator: Karen Stewart, SAC

This group of beef and sheep farmers wanted to develop a standard for mineral supplements to better navigate the information they receive from feed merchants.

The group evolved and joined with another local beef group and received KTIF funding to focus on metabolic profiling. They aim to use nutritional information to improve fertility in their suckler herds.

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Johne's Disease - analysing farmers' behaviour

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: North East Scotland
Group coordinator: Sarah Balfour, SAC

Beef cattle farmers in Aberdeenshire are comparing farmer attitudes towards Johne’s Disease. They are investigating why there can be a huge difference in farmers’ mindsets when purchasing breeding animals.

The ultimate aim for the group is to persuade more pedigree bull breeders to aim for a higher Risk Level Status, and to persuade commercial buyers of bulls and heifers to seek the highest Risk Level Status when buying breeding animals.

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Local Authority vegetable supply chain

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Midlothian
Group coordinator: Amanda Brown, SAOS

This group of Food for Life Scotland representatives, fruit and vegetable wholesalers, local authority members, producers, processors, and supply chain specialists aims to increase the amount of Scottish vegetables being served in school meals.

They are identifying the barriers to procurement, processing and preparation of fresh vegetables in order to overcome them.

Read their story

Learn more

Rural Skills Training

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Ayrshire
Group coordinator: Scott Petrie, on behalf of Soil Association Scotland

This group of active farmers (who employ staff), industry representatives (e.g. AHDB, NFUS), and local SGRPID representatives is assessing the need for more accessible and affordable practical rural skills training in Ayrshire.

If they determine a need, the group will explore how to fund and develop a farmer-led training provider.

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Virtual fencing and tracking for hill cows

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Northern Scotland
Group coordinator: Malcolm Macdonald, SAC

This group of hill farmers is investigating new technologies available to track and contain livestock.

They are investigating which options are most cost effective and best suited to Scottish upland farming conditions. They may team up with a tech company. Ultimately they hope to show that this technology can improve the sustainability of extensive hill grazing.

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Glampshire

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Ayrshire
Group coordinator: Emma Paterson Taylor and Fergus Younger, SAOS

A number of farmers who have been developing glamping pods on their farms are collaborating to jointly market glamping in Ayrshire.

Since their initial discussions, the group has decided to broaden its focus to explore other regional marketing initiatives and the wider potential for agri-tourism in Ayrshire.

The group timing fits well with other projects in development, such as a recent tourist initiative trying to mirror the success of the North Coast 500 by mapping out tourist trails across Ayrshire, Arran and Bute.

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Clyde Valley Waders

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Central/West Scotland
Group coordinator: Jennifer Struthers, SAC Consulting

This group of farmers is working with RSPB Scotland in the Clyde Valley to learn more about what factors increase wading bird populations.

Wader monitoring in the Clyde Valley has focused on topography and geography, but this group aims to assess whether soil type, structure and pH can explain why birds seem to prefer particular fields and areas.

They can then identify what needs to change in areas where wader populations are low.

Learn more

 

 

Potato Cyst Nematode Project (PCN Project)

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Angus/East of Scotland
Group coordinator: Calum Johnston, SAC Consulting

This large group of seed growers, consultancy and academic organisations, precision agriculture companies and SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) is collaborating on a planned strategy to tackle the spread of PCN in Scotland.

After an initial open meeting bringing together potato growers and industry experts, a smaller steering group will move forward to raise awareness among arable farmers and investigate mitigation measures, precision farming solutions, and potential new PCN tests.

Read about the first meeting

Learn more

Scottish Commercial Apple Production

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Perth and Kinross
Group coordinator: Amanda Brown, SAOS

Commercial apple orchards offer opportunities to reduce Scotland’s carbon footprint, diversify farming activities, and encourage new entrants.

A group of farmers is working with Scottish Forestry and the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh to develop a plan around research, growing, carbon education, and commercialisation.

They aim to help the apple sector in Scotland re-establish itself as a significant part of the Scottish food and drink industry.

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PCN Chitin Biocontrol

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Angus/East of Scotland
Group coordinator: Helen Glass, SAOS

Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) threatens the Scottish potato industry. This group aims to undertake farm-level research to test whether compost high in chitin – a protein present in shellfish - can act as a non-chemical agent to decrease the level of PCN in potato and daffodil bulb fields.

Formed of farmers, co-ops, research and marketing organisations, the group aims to establish the potential for a Scottish-based composting facility using waste shells.

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Farm Hydrogen

 

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: North-east
Group coordinator: Rebecca Audsley, SAC Consulting

A group of north-east farmers want to investigate the feasibility of producing and using hydrogen at a small scale on working farms: as a fuel for farm machinery, as an energy storage option for those with on-farm renewables and ultimately, in the production of fertiliser.  

Learn more

 

Scottish Sugar Beets

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Scotland
Group coordinator: Iain Riddell, SAC Consulting

This group of growers, researchers, processors and industry members aims to re-establish a Scottish sugar beet industry.

They believe growing sugar beet for livestock feed, chemicals, materials and fuels will help farmers diversify and that there is potential for a domestic sugar beet refinery.

  • They will begin with farm trials.

Agroforestry - integrating sheep, beef and trees

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Scotlandwide
Group coordinator: Poppy Frater/ Stephen Adlard, SAC Consulting

This group have three longer term aims:

1. To investigate the potential to integrate beef and sheep with trees on Scottish farmland and come up with workable, practical ideas;

2. To increase the planting of trees on livestock farms across Scotland by generating much needed positive publicity;

3. To influence or assist the development of Scottish Government planning for grant assistance for agroforestry.

 

Aspen Agroforestry

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Scotlandwide
Group coordinator: Scott Petrie, on behalf of the Soil Association Scotland

This group aims to design a project which will demonstrate the wider benefits and effects of using native aspen in an agroforestry context, trialling different Aspen clones on multiple sites and covering a range of scenarios, including wood pasture.

The group will determine the project aims and areas of focus as part of a collaborative process.

 

Net Zero Arran

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: Isle of Arran
Group coordinator: Alexander Pirie, SAC Consulting

A group of Arran farmers, making use of the RISS facilitation opportunity, is getting support to identify steps they can take to work towards lower carbon footprints and ideally Net Zero Arran.

The first objective is to analyse and compare carbon footprints they already have to identify measures that farmers can take to work towards zero carbon, identifying immediate actions and other measures they could take in the longer term. This is likely to include both agricultural improvements and environmental work like woodland and new habitat creation.

The second objective is to tie this in with a broader, community-based initiative involving Taste of Arran, which could provide much needed positive publicity for the farmers and enhance the provenance, carbon and environmental credentials of Arran produce.

 

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