AMAZON is making inroads into the UK’s countryside this year as part of plans to “double down” on the untapped potential of rural and farming communities.

The retail giant has already started working with businesses ranging from a furniture retailer in Dumfries to a tech firm offering cow tracking devices, and has launched a major research project looking at how rural firms can harness the internet to ramp up growth.

Doug Gurr, Amazon’s UK country manager, said Britain’s rural economy is “actually a lot bigger than people realise”.

He said: “There are now well over 530,000 rural businesses, which is roughly 24 per cent of the UK total, so it’s a big chunk of the economy, far more than you might think in a world in which we often assume everything is urbanised.”

A recent survey showed that 10,000 rural British sellers, including small business and individuals, are using the Amazon Marketplace to grow their business, but the retail giant is interested in reaching more entrepreneurs. “This is a specific initiative that we’ve chosen to double down on,” Gurr said.

He will make his way to Birmingham at the start of next month, when 6000 businesses are set to descend on the Rural Entrepreneur Show.

There, the company will launch a new two-day Amazon Academy. Those who attend will be offered advice from seasoned rural e-commerce entrepreneurs as well as senior Amazon experts on how to grow revenue online through the Amazon Marketplace and reach customers through its cloud voice service, Alexa.

Gurr admitted Amazon has a commercial interest behind bringing companies online, but suggested there were larger benefits. He said: “Some of it is self-interest, but we’re very passionate particularly about helping small ,and medium-sized businesses to succeed and export.”

Gurr pointed to YouGov stats that showed that among Britain’s small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), those that export are expecting revenue growth of 2.1 per cent over the next 12 months, against 1.2 per cent for those that do not.

Expected job growth is also higher at 0.9 per cent for exporters against 0.3 per cent for businesses that stick to local markets.