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 Ritch, SAC Consulting

This group is exploring opportunities to add value to game (mainly in feather) shot on Scottish estates. By approaching game as a market opportunity rather than as vermin or a sporting by-product, the group hopes to capitalise on the increased focus on local food and food tourism, investigating the potential for collaborative brand and product development.

The group has brought together estate managers, supply chain
businesses and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

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 supported resilient beef businesses through greater profit and performance consistency, within herds and across seasons.

There was no capacity to continue the group activities at this moment.

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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 have decided to focus on marketing the benefits of hill sheep as breeding stock to other farmers.

They are now recruiting a marketing person to take their idea forward.

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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: Stirlingshire
Group coordinator: Paul Mayfield, SAC

This group is exploring innovative ways of using misshapen vegetables not suitable for retail, focusing on the potential to dehydrate them for use in various markets.

There are potential markets in pet snacks, human snacks and in food manufacturing, but these are currently mostly served by imports. This group will explore how to replace some of these imports with UK products, researching and analysing:

  • the best potential method of dehydrating vegetables, with an emphasis on using sustainable energy;
  • the requirements and potential of different markets for dehydrated vegetables; and
  • the production of a project plan to help seek and develop funding for the next stage of the project.

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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.

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Tea Scotland

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

This group, composed of independent Scottish tea growers, aims to understand exactly what species of tea they have via genome expertise, and to use that information to better understand how to propagate, grow and manufacture tea to produce the best and most economically viable final product. 

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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 funding from the Scottish Government’s Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF) for four farms to trial different kinds of woodchip and for a soil scientist to test the effect of spreading mulch on soils.

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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

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Grazing Winter Cereals with Sheep

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

This group aims to develop guidelines and tips for best practice when grazing winter cereals with sheep. It is not something that is widely practiced at present, but it used to be commonplace. This group will look at how it can work, and pass on guidelines that can be used by others.

Farm trials are underway to see if cereals can extend the grazing season and reduce forage costs.

The benefits the group hope to see from this practice include:

  • increased gross margin per hectare as a result of producing cereals and lamb from the same field;
  • help in alleviating the shortage of winter forage for livestock;
  • the reversal of falling soil organic matter levels on arable farms by adding manure from grazing animals;
  • reduced reliance on chemicals, as reduced winter growth due to grazing lessens the need for plant growth regulator use; grazing may also alter the plant structure by helping it to develop a short canopy later in the season, which may reduce lodging; and
  • reducing the burden of winter disease as grazing may remove canopy density and therefore limit the spread of fungi.

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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. But there was no capacity to continue the group activities at this moment.

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Industrial Hemp for Biomass and Oil

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

This group is investigating the economic opportunities that Scottish-grown hemp could offer farmers and others in the supply chain.

It is believed that hemp could potentially meet the demand for low-cost biomass fuel, as well as producing valuable oil and other innovative added-value products.

The group has so far brought together five farmers, the Rowett Institute, SRUC, a renewable energy company and a circular economy business. Moving forward, they will look 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 the potential for a land matching service for Scotland. Working with the NFUS, the Land Commission, SAYFC, land agents, SLE and National Forestry Estate tenants, they aimed to create a single service that each of these bodies could feed into.

They researched what other countries do, including exploring employing an ‘honest broker’.They put forward a proposal for this role to Scottish Government, who announced the service in October 2019, with former Head of Agricultural Policy Ian Davidson fulfilling the role. Read more

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Mobile Abattoir in Scotland

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

Many small-scale abattoirs have closed in mainland Scotland, and access to new large facilities is not likely to be available for many small producers. This group is investigating the potential of a mobile abattoir and other approaches to local slaughter to solve the problem of slaughtering provision.

The project aims to learn from best practice from existing and planned facilities around the world. It aims to:

  • map out the need within Scotland;
  • bring interested parties together to ascertain the operational viability of a facility;
  • assess the best fit facility for different areas of Scotland; and
  • produce an outline feasibility and action plan to take the project forward.

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Organic Rapeseed Supply Chain

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

This group brings together organic farmers with feed processor Norvite to grow organic oilseed rape on a commercial scale and produce protein for the animal feed industry.

Norvite currently sources organic protein from as far away as China.

A core group of four farmers have planted or will plant the crop, having learned from a study trip to Sweden, where it is grown on a large scale. Read their story

Learn more

PolyProduce Project

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

This group aims to expand the local food and drink economy through increased production in polytunnels and the development of a supply chain to take produce to market.

Shops in the Outer Hebrides currently rely almost entirely on imported produce. However, with improvements in polytunnel technology meaning that crops can now be grown locally, there is a real demand from crofters and consumers to develop local supply chains.

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Recycling Plastic Farm Waste

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

As the ban on burning farm plastic comes into force in Scotland, this group aimed to explore options for reuse and recycling of farm plastics.

The group looked at:

  • reducing the quantity of single-use plastics;
  • finding markets for waste plastics;
  • exploring the feasibility of biodegradable plastics and natural products; and
  • finding alternative ways to conserve forage.

In the long term, the group wanted to identify alternatives to single-use plastic wrap, for example by investigating biodegradable plastics, natural products, or alternative ways to conserve forage.

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Rural Workers Co-op Group

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

This group aimed to establish a farmer-owned labour agency providing services to rural businesses in south-west Scotland.

Recruiting labour is an increasing problem for farmers, and this area is one of the most intensively farmed areas of Scotland.

The group brought together the people and agencies required to make such a service possible. It also investigated the potential for a crossover services between agriculture and other rural industries like tourism and forestry.

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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 identify the potential project areas that can increase either the efficiency or quality of rapeseed oil production in Scotland.

Production of high-end, cold-pressed rapeseed oil is a relatively new enterprise, but the group believes there is an opportunity to develop the market.

They are currently working through seven possible options and deciding where to focus their efforts.

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Scottish PRRS Elimination Project

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

This group aimed to assess, plan and pilot Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) control across Scotland, with the intention of eventually eliminating PRRS in the Scottish pig sector.

PRRS is one of the costliest diseases in the pig industry, affecting the performance of breeding, growing and finishing herds. Controlling or eliminating the disease would lead to the following benefits:

  • increased sustainability in the Scottish pig industry by reducing mortality and increasing born alive and litters per sow per year;
  • improved animal health leading to greater production efficiencies and reduced costs;
  • a significant reduction in antibiotic use for control of secondary diseases;
  • a reduction in abattoir condemnations;
  • new and existing export markets including China and India; and
  • improved biosecurity, helping reduce risk and susceptibility to other diseases such as African Swine Fever.

This large group was made up of pig producers, pig veterinarians, pharmaceutical companies, pig specialists and industry organisations.

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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 event in conjunction with tourist body Skye Connect, Three Chimneys restaurant and West Highland College showcasing the meat, and felt there was appetite to develop both production and consumption on Skye.

Their project plan is to form a co-op and employ a project
co-ordinator to take things further.

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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 subsequently using embryo transfer to get the best dam genetics back into the herd more quickly.

Working with a genetic scientist, they received Knowledge Transfer and Innovation (KTIF) funding for the first stage: genomic ranking.

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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.

But the group evolved and joined with another local beef group, and therefore focused on metabolic profiling. Their aim was 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

This group wants to compare farmer attitudes towards Johne’s Disease among beef herds within the North East (Aberdeenshire area) to determine why there is such a difference in the mind-set of farmers when purchasing breeding animals, and raise awareness of the implications to encourage better control measures and a bigger supply of Johne's free breeding stock. 

The ultimate aim would be a campaign to persuade more pedigree bull breeders to aim for a higher Risk Level Status with the intention of reaching Level 1 and to persuade commercial buyers of bulls and heifers to seek the highest risk level status when buying breeding animals. This will create the biggest impact.

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Local Authority vegetable supply chain

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

This group aims to increase the amount of Scottish vegetables being served in school meals by working across the supply chain to identify and overcome barriers in procurement, processing and preparation of fresh vegetables.

They will engage with a wide range of actors from across the supply chain and school catering teams, to identify both perceived and actual barriers and co-design practical solutions.

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Rural Skills Training

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

There is a lack of practical rural skills training in Ayrshire. This group will explore the opportunity to develop a farmer-led training resource for the local area, and if a gap for such a service is identified, the group hopes to identify and overcome barriers to establishing training; to consider practicalities for developing a new farmer-led training model; and to design a plan for taking the project forward to the development stage.

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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 farmers aims to identify the technology that is available to virtually track and/or contain cows in an extensive hill setting. In the process, they also hope to gauge which options are cost effective and practical; to innovate and try out potential solutions suited to Scottish upland farming conditions; provide a ready-made trial group for companies which have technology nearing market looking for field-trial sites; provide a larger buying group capable of sharing experiences; and ultimately, 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 had been individually developing glamping pods on their farms thought there was an opportunity to collaborate and jointly market glamping in Ayrshire. They felt that tourism in Ayrshire was under-developed and if they could work together, they could be successful in promoting Ayrshire as Scotland's glamping region.

The group timing fits well with other initiatives currently under development for the area, like The Coig - a tourism initiative trying to build on the success of the North Coast 500, by mapping out a number of tourist trails across Ayrshire, Arran and Bute.

After a preliminary meeting with experts, the group decided to broaden its focus to include agri-tourism opportunities more generally and other regional marketing initiatives.

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Clyde Valley Waders

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

This group's objectives are:
• To investigate common themes and farming practices on farms where breeding farmland wader populations are high.
• Identify the soil pH and condition and farming systems of the preferred breeding sites for waders
• Look to find what needs to change in areas where wader populations are low to encourage breeding waders

Whilst survey work and farmer meetings on this subject have existed, this group takes an innovative approach by taking existing work further through investigation of more than just topography and geography, but comparing soil type, structure and pH combined with other farming practices.

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Potato Cyst Nematode Project (PCN Project)

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

This group - involving seed growers, consultancy and academic organisations, precision agriculture companies and SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) - intend to engage with a facilitator and industry experts to draw up a planned strategy to tackle PCN. This is likely to involve raising awareness among arable farmers, investigating mitigation measures, the role of precision farming solutions and potential new PCN tests.

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Scottish Commercial Apple Production

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

There's a strong belief that commercial orchards could be rejuvenated as they offer opportunities for good farm management, reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint, providing new income for farmers as well as providing an opportunity to develop new research insight and R&D opportunities both at farm and processing levels around orchard crops.  There is also a need to co-ordinate the sector and the sector’s knowledge whilst reaching out to other experts to help the apple sector in Scotland re-establish itself as a significant part of the Scottish food and drink industry.

This group want to work on a plan to achieve all of that, delivering the ambition and re-building the sector to make it fit for purpose and resilient for the 21st century.

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PCN Chitin Biocontrol

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

This group want to develop and define a robust trial approach to validate whether compost high in chitin can act as a non-chemical approach to decrease the level of PCN in potato and daffodil bulb fields.

They aim to produce a research proposal and outline commercialisation plan. If the trials are successful, there is commercial potential to establish an approved, Scottish-based composting facility using the waste shells from Scottish shellfish supply chain, as well as developing an agronomic biocontrol strategy that will be relevant to Scottish potato and daffodil growers in order to maintain their domestic and export markets for their crops.

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Farm Hydrogen

Project stage: Ongoing
Location: North East of Scotland
Group coordinator: Rebecca Audsley, SAC Consulting

This group want to investigate the feasibility and opportunities for producing and using hydrogen at a small scale on working farms.   The group wish to explore the potential for Hydrogen as a fuel for farm machinery, as an energy storage option for those with on-farm renewables and ultimately, in the production of fertiliser.

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Read RISS group stories

Contact us about RISS

For more information on these projects, or to send us an idea for a new project, contact Analy on 0131 370 8146 or at ahannah@soilassociation.org
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