Innovation and expansion are key to getting our rural economy moving

Innovation and revitalisation are key to helping rural businesses and communities recover from COVID-19, Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has said as he urged rural businesses to apply for a £1.7million stimulus fund.

The Minister made the comments after he visited The Milk Hut in Portrush (WATCH OUR VIDEO FROM THE MILK HUT) – a brand new vending machine operation, one of which dispenses one litre or 250ml of milk while another of the machines allows people to buy reusable one litre or 250ml glass bottles. The Milk Hut has received £4,727.40 from the TRPSI Programme under the Rural Business Development Grant Pilot Scheme (2019) to purchase the vending equipment – the first operational on farm machine of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The Minister visited the innovative business following his decision to allocate £1million to the Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme and £700,000 to the Rural Business Development Grant Scheme, both of which opened for applications on 3 August 2020.

Speaking after, Minister Poots said: “I am so impressed by what I’ve seen at The Milk Hut today. This is an innovative and highly original concept and seeing it today, highlights the type of radical thinking Northern Ireland’s businesses are so good at and we must encourage them to do more of. The determination to progress and innovate within the agricultural industry by families such as the Chesnutt’s is highly admirable.

“COVID-19 has made trading particularly challenging and I want to stimulate our rural businesses by making available funding that’s specifically designed to help them innovate, expand and improve. The £1million Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme aims to encourage businesses invest in innovation and technology and the £700,000 Rural Business Development Grant Scheme helps owners invest in new equipment, growth plans or building adaptations.”

The Minister concluded: “I am pleased that my Department has been able to be part of their story and help them to push their concept into reality and I wish them all the best in their new venture. I am now calling on all eligible rural business owners to apply for this funding and help us get our rural economy back on its feet.”

The Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme will close at 5.00pm on 31 August 2020. More information here

The Rural Business Development Grant Scheme will close at .00 on 11 September 2020. Application Forms, Guidance Notes and further advice and information are available from your local councils. More information on the DAERA website