Cereal innovators grow Hebridean barley

Isle of Raasay Distillery

Isle of Raasay Distillery

By Rhiannon Merritt, Business Engagement Executive, Interface

No two days are the same in my job; last month I found myself standing in a field of barley on the picturesque island of Raasay – in the torrential rain – wearing a dress and blazer!

You may be surprised to hear, that for me, this was a personal career highlight. After joining Interface last year, my first project was to support Alasdair Day from R & B Distillers on his quest to create an authentic Isle of Raasay whisky from the first legal distillery on the island. The harsh Hebridean climate had prevented barley from being grown on the islands of Skye and Raasay for many years and therefore there was a lack of local farming knowledge about the crop and how it could be grown. I introduced Alasdair to Dr Peter Martin from the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Agronomy Institute (AI), who had been already working on a cereal growing project in the Northern Periphery and Arctic regions. If this project proved successful, it could provide tremendous economic opportunities for the small population of the Isle of Raasay, which helped to secure 50% funding of the project from Highlands and Islands Enterprise through a Follow-On Innovation Voucher.

It’s always rewarding learning the outcome of any of the projects that we support and seeing it was extra special. Alasdair and Peter hosted an interactive event on the island to unveil the trial results, which I was honoured to be included in. After presentations by both parties, we waded through the potential fields of gold (which was a surprise – cue inappropriate outfit!) to see how the five barley varieties had developed. It was fantastic to see the difference in how each variety had taken to the environment and that the project had proven successful. It’s no secret that provenance within the food & drink scene is becoming increasingly more important with consumer demand. It was inspiring to see members from the Raasay community at the event and encouraged by the opportunities that this project has enabled to capitalise on Scotland’s global reputation in producing high quality food and drink.

Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight is a nationwide event which supports and promotes Scotland’s produce, and the people who grow, make, cook and sell it. This year’s celebration will take place between Saturday 2nd September to Sunday 17th September 2017. Find out more.

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