Students studying in both the agriculture and food fields at six different third-level colleges from across the island of Ireland will gather in Queen’s University Belfast for the fifth Annual Great Agri-Food Debate.

The event will take place on Thursday, February 27, and is a joint initiative between Dawn Meats and McDonald’s.

According to a statement from Dawn Meats, this is the first year the competition will be held in Northern Ireland.

The statement outlined that this aims to: “Reflect the importance of all-island dialogue in addressing some of the biggest issues affecting farming today.”

The third-level schools taking part in the debate are as follows:

  • Queen’s University Belfast;
  • University of Limerick;
  • University College Dublin (UCD);
  • College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE);
  • Dundalk Institute of Technology;
  • Waterford Institute of Technology (last year’s winners).

Speaking ahead of the event, Niall Browne, Dawn Meats’ CEO, said: “This is the fifth year of the Great Agri-Food Debate and we’re delighted to host proceedings this time in Belfast.

Queen’s University’s Institute for Global Food Security provides the perfect backdrop for some of the brightest young minds to debate issues of central importance to our industry – north and south.

Concluding, Browne said: “This event has gone from strength to strength in the last five years and I wish all the participants well in what will be a lively and competitive series of debates, which give us all food for thought.”

The judging panel will include:

  • Nina Prichard, McDonald’s;
  • Deike Potzel, German Ambassador to Ireland;
  • Pamela Byrne, CEO, Food Safety Authority of Ireland;
  • Niall Browne, CEO, Dawn Meats and Dunbia;
  • Tara McCarthy, CEO, Bord Bia;
  • Representatives from the wider agri-food industry, academia and the financial services sector.

Nina Prichard, head of sustainable and ethical sourcing, McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said: “We’re proud to support this year’s Great Agri-Food Debate in Belfast.

It’s wonderful to help deliver such a high-standard of informed and impassioned debate, with students from colleges across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland participating.

Concluding, Prichard said: “It will be so encouraging to see students debating the issues of the day and coming up with innovative solutions to some of the challenges faced.”

The two semifinals will take place at 10:30am and 11:30am on Thursday, February 27, with the final to take place at 2:30pm. Quarter finals will take place the day before, Wednesday, February 26.