The South-West of Scotland and Cumbria will become the 'go to' region for future investment in high-tech dairy processing.

This is according to project leads at the £21 million Digital Dairy Chain, which was officially launched this week near Dumfries.

Led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) from its Barony campus, it will see partners across South-West Scotland and Cumbria focussing on developing a fully integrated and traceable dairy supply chain.

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Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "Innovation is critical to improving productivity and addressing labour supply issues and the Digital Dairy Chain can play a really important part in supporting our dairy sector to innovate.

"This matters to Cumbria as we are home to one of the biggest dairy herds in the UK. I am delighted that the Dairy Chain is now formally launched and look forward to continued close working with colleagues in SRUC to deliver this important project in South-West Scotland and Cumbria."

Aligning with Scotland’s Strategy for Economic Transformation, it is planned that  the Digital Dairy Chain will eventually lead to the creation of more than 600 jobs and generate £60m a year of additional value.

It will do this by attracting large dairy processors to the region, supporting investment in industry-focussed research and development and by turning South-West Scotland and Cumbria into a “magnet” for tech companies.

Supported by £21.3m from the UK Government’s Strength in Places Fund, the Digital Dairy Chain’s initial focus will be on the use of sensors and data from dairy herds and how it can be utilised to produce more and better dairy products.

Cumbria and South-West Scotland is the UK’s second largest milk field, producing 1.9 billion litres each year, with a farm-gate value of £750 million.

There are 52 dairy manufacturing businesses adding value to milk produced from 1,300 farms.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: "The Borderlands are home to many innovative dairy farmers and producers who are boosting the value of their industry and the region’s economy while also making significant improvements in both sustainability and welfare.

"The UK Government’s £21.3 million investment will help the development of these innovations by supporting the use of sensors and data right across the industry."