Necessity is the mother of invention – or, as Martin Gilbert, co-founder of Aberdeen Asset Management, recently put it, the key to success during sustained economic pressure is to turn apparent risks into opportunities.
These statements should resonate with the food and drink manufacturing and production sector, which has had to cope with change and uncertainty at a pace and scale like never before.
Consumers’ eating and shopping habits have transformed with an acceleration of online sales and home delivery, cooking from scratch and a growing focus on health, wellbeing and sustainability.
The pandemic has seen whole markets closed down in foodservice, hospitality and tourism. Every aspect of doing business has been disrupted – from sourcing packaging and getting goods to market to skills shortages and accommodating social distancing.
But food production has continued, with deliveries reaching customers and stock on the shelves keeping the nation fed.
This feat highlights the adaptability and ingenuity of food and drink businesses, as well as the dedication and talent of the thousands of people who work in the sector.
SeedPod is a beacon for their entrepreneurial spirit and ambition. The £21 million industry growth hub to be built at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) campus at Craibstone will support the sector to evolve and embrace new growth opportunities.
SeedPod will put the region’s businesses at the forefront of innovation, productivity and sustainability, increasing high-value exports and creating new jobs.
This project – co-created with industry and led by Opportunity North East (One) – will drive green economic recovery and low-carbon food production, contributing to net-zero goals.
The sector’s priorities and business needs have driven concept development and detailed design. There has been extensive consultation, as well testing and refining with the industry over the past year.
SeedPod will deliver what food and drink manufacturing and processing businesses at all stages of growth in the region and across Scotland want.
It is where high-growth early-stage companies will operate from food-standard production units, with access to development kitchens, wrap-around business support, and expert mentoring to scale their production and grow at pace.
Focus on efficiency
Growing and established businesses will go to SeedPod to trial and adopt the latest technology, automation and process innovations to become more efficient, productive and sustainable in their manufacturing, processing and supply chains.
Businesses seeking to identify new food trends and sell premium products into global markets will draw on SeedPod’s combination of global consumer and market insights, as well as its development kitchens, to experiment and refine new products.
SeedPod will deliver what food and drink manufacturing and processing businesses at all stages of growth in the region and across Scotland want.”
There are several elements to SeedPod, which will combine to create a go-to centre for industry growth.
The first is support. Seedpod will provide sector-specific programmes and access to expertise and knowledge, including mentoring and peer networks, to help businesses grow faster.
The second is innovation. SeedPod will have development kitchens to catalyse product innovation and demonstration spaces for new production processes and technology.
Its co-working, collaboration and presentation areas will facilitate knowledge sharing, and connect businesses with research, innovation and commercial applications.
The latest consumer insights, data, trends and foresight work will drive product innovation and premium market development.
A third aspect is digitisation. Seedpod’s advanced manufacturing and industry 4.0 activity will ensure businesses lead in automation, robotics and other technologies to increase productivity and sustainability.
A new partnership with the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, announced earlier this month, makes SeedPod part of a country-wide capability network and the centre of excellence for food and drink manufacturing.
SeedPod will enhance the north-east’s entrepreneurial food and drink culture, and provide access to experts deeply committed to supporting businesses and the sector’s future.
It will become the focal point for evolving industry partnerships with Scotland Food & Drink, governments and their agencies, delivering key parts of the sector’s national recovery plan.
The project partners support the industry’s growth ambitions and recognise this region’s leadership role in driving change and progress.
SeedPod includes £10m of capital funding provided jointly by the UK Government and Scottish Government via the Aberdeen City Region Deal.
One has committed £4.4m towards delivering SeedPod’s objectives, while SRUC is a strategic delivery partner and providing the site.
I am encouraged that we are getting the right mix of facilities, support and activity. The project is already attracting sector investment and sponsorship.
Businesses are stepping forward to fund SeedPod’s functionality, including its development kitchens. Work continues to secure further resources and funding for delivery.
With planning approval secured in May this year, the next 18 months will see procurement completed and construction start and run through 2022.
The project partners support the industry’s growth ambitions and recognise this region’s leadership role in driving change and progress.”
The combined food, drink, agriculture, and seafood sector is the north-east’s most significant industry after energy.
It already contributes more than 20% of Scottish sector outputs and provides 22,000 jobs in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Its growth is critical to our economic future.
In SeedPod, we prepare all the ingredients necessary to turn risks into opportunities and deliver a recipe for success.
Patrick Machray is chairman of Food Hub (NES) and vice-chairman of Opportunity North East.