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Machinery rings key development for Scottish agriculture

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Machinery rings were found to have emerged as a new, unique form of service provider in the agricultural sector.

Machinery rings have had a significant impact in the farming sector in Scotland and can also be described as a key development in improving economic sustainability in the greater context of Scottish agriculture. That is the finding of a research project conducted at the James Hutton Institute.

Dr Sharon Flanigan, the researcher in charge of the study, explained: “Machinery rings are a form of agricultural cooperative that has become established in Scotland as a means for farmers and other members to reduce their costs through access to a range of services, including resource sharing and contracting, labour services, training and commodities purchasing.”

Since they were introduced in Scotland 25 years ago, machinery rings have evolved from ‘niche’ initiatives created locally by farmers and key organisations (including the Scottish Agricultural College and Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society) into associations with large membership bases in some regions, including Ringlink in the North East of Scotland, which has close to 2,600 members.

The study, which involved conducting group discussions with members of machinery rings in the North East and Scottish Borders regions, sought to explore members’ perceptions and experience of dealing with these associations. The study also involved interviews with a range of key informants, representing a range of agriculture industry perspectives.

Machinery rings were found to have emerged as a new, unique form of service provider in the agricultural sector, the most novel function in their portfolio being the sharing of machinery and labour farm across farm boundaries.

Also, machinery rings were described by participants as being different from other forms of agricultural cooperatives, particularly in relation to the relative flexibility members have to engage with the ring in whatever way best suits their farm business.

By allowing greater efficiency in the way resources are used and accessed by farmers, these cooperative associations have played a role in the improvement of the economic sustainability of farming, participants agreed.

The research was conducted as part of ‘FarmPath’ (Farming Transitions: Pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe), funded by the European Commission and the Scottish Government.

Notes to editors

'FarmPath' (Farming Transitions: Pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe) is a three year collaborative research project funded through European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, with cross funding provided through the nine participating research institutes and universities. The FarmPath project is coordinated by Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland of the James Hutton Institute and runs from March 2011 to February 2014. The overall goal of FarmPath is to identify and assess future transition pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe and the social and technological innovation needs required to initiate and progress along these pathways. FarmPath research in Scotland involves assessments of the development of machinery rings, on-farm wind energy production and hobby and lifestyle approaches to farming, as well as the identification of ‘transition pathways’ for regional sustainability of agriculture (that is, the steps required to reach idealised future situations for agriculture in North East Scotland). Further information can be found on the FarmPath website.

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Printed from /news/machinery-rings-key-development-scottish-agriculture on 02/12/23 09:33:22 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.