With just one week to go until AgriScot, the UK’s premier agricultural business event, we caught up with organiser Martin Dare of Rural Projects, to find out more about the event, and what is on offer this year.

When did the very first AgriScot take place?

The first AgriScot took place in 2001 and it was a very different event to today. In the year of foot and mouth, we had no livestock and 164 trade stands in two halls but there was a real appetite for a cross industry event, in the winter, that allowed farmers to do business. There wasn’t anything else in Scotland that was bringing together trade stands from right across the UK, indoors under one roof, that allowed you to make plans for the year ahead, look at new innovations and see how you could progress your business. Now we have over 230 exhibition stands across four halls.

The Scottish Farmer: People come from far and wide to attend AgriScot People come from far and wide to attend AgriScot

How do you make sure the event remains relevant for farmers?

We have a small but very proactive voluntary board, led by chairman and farmer Robert Neill, who are all involved in agriculture in some way. Most of them are directly farming or working with farming businesses so they are always seeking views from their network to ensure we keep the event current. Our Exhibitor Manager, John MacInnes is also a farmer and has been with us since we started the event so has a really good grasp of what our visitors want to see and hear, and equally what our exhibitors need in order to make the event a success for them. Some of the trade stands have been with us since we started so we take that as a sign we are on the right track…either that or John’s renowned humour keeps them coming back, or both!

You introduced seminars, how has this added to the event?

We wanted to offer something that allowed visitors the opportunity to dive into products and solutions a bit more, so they could take home new ideas and contacts to help their farming businesses all year. We have some amazing innovations and projects in Scotland, but the exhibitor halls are often so busy with chatter, that it is difficult to go into lots of depth. We initially started with just one seminar but the programme quickly grew and we now have two seminar rooms, offering 10 sessions ranging from carbon and climate management to financial profitability, animal disease health and growing cereals in a carbon neutral environment. They are all recorded and available for anyone to watch, free of charge, after the event via our website.

The Scottish Farmer: The cattle classes draw in the best of breeds and provides a great spectacle The cattle classes draw in the best of breeds and provides a great spectacle

One thing that really makes AgriScot stand out from other events is your commitment to celebrate farming through your awards, what was the purpose of these?

We first launched our awards in 2009 with the Dairy Farm of the Year, and we realised there was an appetite to expand and introduce other categories too. We wanted to celebrate the innovative farming operations, and their people, and also provide insights to others so they could gain ideas to support their own enterprises. So, over the following years we brought in beef, sheep, arable, diversification and just this year, sustainable.

If you missed AgriScot or want to watch any of it again, click here

As many of your readers will be aware, we were really pleased to partner with the Scottish Farmer and RHASS so our awards will now sit as part of the new Scottish Agriculture Awards, which took place in October. A member of our board still sits on the judging panel for each of the categories, and all the Farm of the Year winners will be joining us at AgriScot for a celebration in the main ring. We have also added a session to our seminar programme where you will be able to hear from some of the winners to learn a little more about their farming businesses.

This year you have made a real commitment to supporting the next generation, how?

The Business Skills Competition was launched in 2010 and is open to individuals between 18 and 25 years of age and asks them to assess a real-life farming scenario and provide their assessment. We don’t expect them to be fully versed in all things business, it is a chance to get them engaged and then through support from our partners at SRUC and NFU Mutual they receive mentoring to help develop their own skills.

However, this year we have also increased the age of our silage competition for young people which has seen a massive uplift in entries, and again is encouraging the next generation to get involved in AgriScot.

AgriScot was a successor to DairyScot, so is it still just for dairy farmers?

Absolutely not, since 2001 we have really adapted the event so there is something for everyone. Whilst we recognise our history and legacy of the event and see dairy still an integral part of the day with dairy cattle classes as one of the highlights, our exhibitor stands now range from animal feed to satellite technologies, data recording, consultancy and finance to name a few. It really does offer something for every type of farming operation.

  • AgriScot will take place on Wednesday, November 22, at Ingliston, Edinburgh and has free entry and free car parking. In the Scottish Farmer, you will find the events catalogue, an opportunity to plan your day with detailed lists of exhibitors, seminars, and main ring activity.