The return to physical events this year is hugely exciting and brings with it great opportunities to collaborate, network and build relationships in a way that is not quite the same online.

My first big event of the year is Aquaculture UK, which takes place in Aviemore from 3-5 May. It’s the UK’s largest aquaculture exhibition and features over 200 exhibitors.

Regional firms such as Gael Force Group, Ferguson Transport, Fluggaboats, Highland Aqua Team, Inverlussa Marine Services, MacDuff Ship Design, Northern Light Consulting, Ocean Kinetics, SAMS Enterprise and Tom Morrow Tarpaulins, will be there. 

Visitor registration is free and it’s a great opportunity to soak up the scale and growing sophistication of the supply chain servicing the aquaculture industry.

We’ll be on Stand 201 so please pop by for a chat or catch me after the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre Funding Surgery on 3 May.

We’ll be sharing our stand with MNU, our Norwegian partner from the GreenOffshoreTech project, which encourages and supports innovation in SMEs to develop sustainable blue economy industries by applying new and novel technologies.

GreenOffshoreTech brings together nine of Europe’s leading blue economy clusters and SME intermediaries from 15 regions and seven countries: Norway, Portugal, Latvia, Poland, Iceland, UK, and Germany.

There’s a €3m budget to support business innovation projects in four offshore sectors – aquaculture, waterborne transport, renewable energy and oil and gas. 

The first call for project proposals opened on 6 April - have a look at the website for more information or speak to me if you want to find out more.

Hosting the RHS

The Royal Highland Show is also back on 23-26 June, and this year is celebrating its 200th anniversary.

Each year, the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society selects a region to “host” the show, and I’m delighted that the Highlands and Islands have been chosen for its bicentennial event.

The four-day programme will showcase and raise awareness of the Highlands and Islands, celebrating our unique natural assets, culture, heritage and of course our larder.

We’re really looking forward to seeing many of our region’s businesses exhibiting, including Shetland Food and Drink, Dunnet Bay Distillers, Chocolates of Glenshiel, Orkney Dairy, Isle of Barra Distillery and Great Glen Charcuterie to name but a few.  

Celebrating excellence

Last but not least, after a two-year hiatus, we were excited to launch the 2022 Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards last week.

Now a firm favourite in the industry calendar this is the 17th awards ceremony and takes place on Friday 28 October at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness. 

The awards spotlight and celebrate excellence and achievements in the food and drink industry in the region - from world-renowned businesses to small innovative producers.

There are 14 different categories including two new awards for Best Food and Drink Tourism Experience and a Supply Chain Business Award.

You can see full details on the website. It’s free to enter online and the process is straightforward. It’s a great way to raise your profile and brand awareness.

The ceremony is one of my favourite nights on the calendar to meet old friends in the industry and make new connections.

As you see there’s lots to look forward to!

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