The chair of Northern Ireland Institute of Agricultural Science (NIIAS) , Jim Freeburn, has confirmed the key role played by the organisation in delivering positive change across all sectors of farming.

Freeburn said: “We want to build on this for the future. NIIAS members have, traditionally, espoused the highest standards of business proficiency and technological progression within all aspects of farming and food.

“NIIAS was established 62-years-ago to meet this need – it’s a fundamental priority for the organisation that will not change.”

Freeburn made these comments while visiting this year’s Balmoral Show. He was joined by the institute’s executive secretary, Louise Millsopp and treasurer, Steven Millar.

The organisation represents the professional interests of agricultural graduates working in Northern Ireland and those with a comparable third level qualification.

Members are engaged in farming, scientific research and development, technology transfer, government policy formation, education, farm advice, finance, agri-food businesses and relevant commercial and ancillary sectors.

“Our current membership extends to 140 people – we want to grow this figure for the future,” Millsopp said.

Like many comparable organisations, NIIAS suffered in terms of the activities that it could deliver face to face, as a direct consequence of the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have spent the last couple of years re-building our structures and developing real momentum in terms of delivering for our entire membership,” Freeburn added.

Positive change

Millar sees NIIAS playing key roles at a number of levels for its entire membership.

The treasurer said: “Providing opportunities to share knowledge and information through our programme of visits and seminars is one of our priorities, as it contributes to  the professional development of our members.

“We need to be at the cutting edge and provide new learning and training opportunities for our members.

“NIIAS is also a key forum for debate and discussion relating to all the key and topical issues that are impacting on farming and food right now.”

Stevenson added: “NIIAS provides a unique networking opportunity for its members as it brings together a wide range of professionals working across a range of sectors and businesses in the agri-food industry.

“This aspect of the organisation is especially helpful and beneficial to younger members.”

Freeburn is particularly conscious of the need to add to the membership of NIIAS on a continuing basis.

“Securing new members is an absolute priority at the present time. Our current age profile reflects a generation of members with vast experience of how farming has developed over recent years.

“However, we need more new members with fresh ideas and enthusiasm to bring us into the future with the required momentum,” he said.

The NIIAS chair continued: “Farming is at the very heart of the world’s response to future food security and climate change.

“As a consequence, the opportunities now presenting themselves for NIIAS members are immense.”