Scottish farming has lost a passionate advocate for agricultural cooperation and someone who committed much of his life to trying to build a stronger and more successful industry. Akki Manson CBE, age 89, died peacefully at his home on the family farm of Kilblean on November 17 following a short illness.

Kilblean was bought in 1804 by his great great grandfather, John Manson, who founded Glen Garioch distillery in 1797 together with his brother, Alexander.

Having lost his older brother Jimmy on active service as a fighter pilot in WWII, Akki, worked in partnership at Kilblean with his father, Captain Alexander Manson, himself a President of the Scottish NFU in 1937 and an active campaigner for the interests of Scottish farmers. His mother, Isabel Manson MBE, played a key role in the Women’s Land Army in Aberdeenshire during WWII.

Always curious, entrepreneurial in outlook and never afraid of challenging the status quo, Akki’s interest was piqued in the early 1960’s by a new form of beef production being trialled at the Rowett Institute known as barley beef. Dr Reg Preston led the trials and in Akki he found a willing partner who would take the theory and show how barley beef production could become a profitable and successful reality. Importantly for Akki, the barley beef production experiment reinforced the commercial reality that to build something of lasting value in agriculture you had to produce something that the market truly wanted and it was therefore essential to work closely with your customer to understand their specific needs and remain agile in satisfying those needs. He would champion this marketing principle with conviction for the rest of his life.

With the operational and commercial success of barley beef production now proven, he founded the farming cooperative of Aberdeen Beef and Calf Limited (ABC) in 1962 which would go on to grow to 90 producing members marketing barley beef to supermarkets such as Waitrose. He would remain chairman of ABC until 1976 when he was appointed honorary chairman.

It was through ABC that Akki first came into contact with another growing farmer’s co-op, Buchan Meat Producers. Buchan Meat processed the barley beef cattle produced by the members of ABC and this was the start of a long connection Akki would have with what would become one of the UK’s largest farmer owned meat processing businesses. Critical for Akki was that Buchan Meat was another example of how farmers could create more profitable and sustainable market opportunities by cooperating and working together. He was appointed a director of Buchan Meat in 1968 and was chairman from 1982 to 1992 which proved to be a period of considerable growth and development for the business. He was greatly upset when Buchan Meat became a victim of the BSE crisis and ceased trading in 1996.

Akki’s passion for achieving greater cooperation in agriculture led him to serve on the council of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) in Edinburgh from 1963 to 1992 and serve as president from 1986 to 1989. His commitment to farming cooperation also saw him serve as a trustee of the Plunkett Foundation in Oxford from 1975-1992 and president of the Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives (UK) in 1990-1991 which involved him serving on the Brussels based COPA-COGECA Council, the united voice of farmers and their cooperatives in Europe.

In addition to his enthusiasm for agricultural cooperation, Akki was also keen to contribute to the growth and development of the red meat industry in the UK. He served on the Meat and Livestock Commission from 1986 to 1995 and was chairman of their Cattle Committee. He was also a director of the Animal Data Centre from 1992 to 1995.

In 1989 he was awarded a CBE for services to agriculture and was the recipient of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society Award in 1995.

Following his retirement from the various farming and food organisations he served, he spent his remaining years farming at Kilblean and pursuing his great interest in forestry and the countryside. His other passion in retirement was local history and supporting the work of his local heritage group.

Akki spent his life selflessly serving others but he was delighted to do so because he always felt he had a duty and a part to play in helping to build a better future for the next generation whether that was in agriculture, his local community or on the family farm of Kilblean. Scottish agriculture has lost a true pioneer and champion of cooperation but he will feel satisfied that his work has hopefully helped others to succeed and prosper.

Having lost his wife Ethel less than four weeks ago, he is survived by their three children, Anne, Lesley and Sandy, chairman of chartered accountants and business advisers, Johnston Carmichael, and recently appointed Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire.