Innovation and expansion are key to getting our rural economy moving

Date published: 17 August 2020

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.

Minister Poots is pictured at The Milk Hut in Portrush, which is owned by William and Alison Chestnutt

The Minister made the comments after he visited The Milk Hut in Portrush – 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 is now closed.

The Rural Business Development Grant Scheme will close at 5.00pm 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 

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Milk Hut was officially launched in July 2020 by William and Alison Chestnutt on their North Coast dairy farm.
  2. DAERA on Twitter and Facebook  
  3. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office 
  4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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