Northern Ireland food and drink leaders have welcomed the announcement by Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots of a £75 million investment at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).
Michael Bell, executive director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) said:
“Northern Ireland food and drink is world leading in terms of innovation, quality, commercial success and sustainability, and our people have been key to earning and keeping that reputation.
"Many of our best people in roles across the food supply chain are CAFRE graduates.
"This new investment from the executive will see the campuses at Greenmount and Loughry continue to grow from strength to strength, further cementing Northern Ireland’s leading position in developing new talent within agri-food."
CAFRE investment and the future
According to the NIFDA representative, a strong food and drink sector will be crucial to securing Northern Ireland’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
NIDA said that this further investment into research and development in particular will futureproof the industry in Northern Ireland, driving growth and ensuring the region remains ahead of the curve.
The CAFRE campuses at Loughry in Co. Tyrone and Greenmount in Co. Antrim are to undergo a significant refurbishment programme. This will include new modern student accommodation and high-tech facilities to support student learning.
Announcing the refurbishment programme, Minister Poots said:
“CAFRE has a well-renowned reputation within the agri-food industry for providing excellent tuition and training facilities for the next generation of farmers, growers and agri-food personnel.
“I am delighted to announce a £75 million investment which will revolutionise the facilities at CAFRE and underpin future sustainable growth of the Northern Ireland agri-food industry."
The buildings at the heart of Loughry and Greenmount Campuses, where students live, study and socialise, were built over 50 years ago.
Edwin Poots commented:
“It is, therefore, fitting that my department is making this investment in the centenary year of Northern Ireland.
“Our agri-food sector has faced many challenges over the past century and has grown to develop a global reputation for high quality food and traceability.
“It is now time to invest in each campus to provide modern, well-designed facilities which will meet the needs of students, staff and industry during the next century," the minister concluded.