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Agri Food Co Operation Scheme



The scheme recognises the difficulty producers face in finding the time to devote to co-operation activity and in identifying the expertise and resources necessary to progress joint initiatives. The purpose of the scheme is to help overcome these barriers.

  • The scheme will give like-minded businesses within the agri-food sector the opportunity to work together to explore ways of improving returns from the supply chain.
  • The AFCS will not provide capital funding for new technologies/equipment. Facilitators can direct groups to other sources of funding e.g. the Food Processing Grant.
  • The scheme is made up of two stages. In the first stage, eligible applications will be provided with a facilitator to help you:
  • take a critical look at your options and develop a business plan and associated action plan which will then take forward a new idea, product, practice, process, or technology that could lead to a new product on the market, a more efficient way of getting an existing product to market or enhance the operation of the supply chain to help the group better meet market requirements.
  • Design a strategy for the development of your group, including a Co-operation Agreement identifying the experience and skills which individual members bring to the group, individual roles within the group and any known training or development needs to fulfill those roles.
  • At the second stage, the business plan, action plan, and co-operation agreement will be assessed and if successful, funding will be awarded to implement the action plan, including training requirements. Support will bring the group to the stage where they are confident and capable of adopting new supply chain arrangements. The scheme encourages both horizontal and vertical partnership working with other players in the development and establishment of short supply chains and local markets. The type of group established as a result of the scheme will depend on the needs and objectives of the group members.
  • Co-operation support will use innovative methods to help:
  • increase turnover / profitability / efficiency savings
  • improve knowledge and skills base
  • improve market capabilities/performance
  • improve logistics, reduce distribution costs
  • take costs out of the supply chain
  • increase the sharing of resources
  • improve supply chain integration and knowledge of the workings of a supply chain

This can be done by:

  • forming groups, clusters, other co-operative arrangements
  • reviewing performance/benchmarking
  • improving communications and knowledge exchange within the supply chain
  • animation i.e. marketing – promoting the group to other potential group members
  • creating food hubs / shared facilities
  • increasing the use of local food as part of tourism mix
  • promoting/developing local/new market opportunities and routes to market
  • research new market opportunities




Expert help with business planning, funding, business development, and market research. Up to a maximum of 50 days, within the following limits: First stage facilitation – 5 days maximum. Post application support – 5 days per month or 25 days per year for a maximum period of two years. The level of facilitation will be determined as part of the action plan.

Specialist Mentoring

More specific support for the group: eg quality assurances, e-commerce and
80% of eligible costs – 75 hours maximum over a 2 year period, or a maximum
of £5,000


To develop the skills of group members
100% of costs to a maximum of £5,000 per group

Study Tours

To develop the skills of group members
100% of eligible costs to a maximum of £3,000 per group.

Co-operation Support

Development of group structures and co-operation activities
50% grant up to £2,500 per group. Examples of co-operation support are costs
associated with the development of group structures and co-operation activities
e.g. legal or financial advice.

Other Business Tools

Management information systems, surveys, websites, logos, and promotional
80% of costs (excluding travel & subsistence) to a maximum of £15,000 per group
– business tools may include Management Information systems, market
intelligence, surveys, websites, logo design, promotional material to increase the
profile of the group and increase membership, value chain analysis by all or
some of the group members.


As the scheme is focused on benefiting Northern Irish agri-food production the lead applicant must be from the NI agricultural or horticultural production sector

  • the project must deal with products whose main components must already be, or could be, produced in Northern Ireland
  • a group must have a minimum of two entities
  • support can be allocated to new or existing groups. However, for support to be granted to an existing group, it must be to develop a business plan for a new joint project
  • the scheme will only support plans for projects which involve innovative/unique characteristics, with low displacement implications and the potential to add net benefits to the Northern Ireland economy




The first stage requires you to download and submit a short expression of interest form.  You can download this form at the bottom of this page. We advise you to also download the notes for guidance document as this will provide further information regarding the scheme.

Please note the scheme will not accept applications from fisheries or aquaculture businesses, forestry businesses, or from businesses where the output is for the energy market.


8th September 2021

13th October 2021

1st December 2021




Contact Countryside Services for more information

Email agrifood@countrysideservices.com or call 028 8778 8207