DAERA minister appoints new deputy chair to the AFBI Board

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots has announced the appointment of Mrs. Roberta Brownlee as the new deputy chairman of the Board of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

Brownlee will take up the role on April 1, 2020, for a three-year term running until March 31, 2023.

“Roberta has extensive experience as a chief executive, with a special interest in quality improvement, stakeholder engagement, governance, risk and safety management,” said Minister Poots.

“I have no doubt Roberta’s experience will enable her to play a positive role in the future of AFBI.”


Brownlee has had a distinguished professional career in health and social care, in the private, public and voluntary sectors and, was recognised for this with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

She currently owns and operates a nursing home in Castlederg, Co. Tyrone; while she also presently holds the position of chair for the Southern Health & Social Care Trust Board and is a member of the Courts & Tribunals Service.

Brownlee is said to have a strong commitment to education, having previously been a member of the Education Board (SELB) and the Board of Governors in Primary and Post Primary Schools. She is also a past member of the Prison Service Pay Review Body (NI Member).

Brownlee has spent many years raising money for a variety of charities in NI. She was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2019 for services to charity and to the Southern Health and social services.

What is the AFBI?

AFBI is an arms-length body of DAERA, with approximately 650 staff delivering scientific work for government departments, public bodies and commercial companies in Northern Ireland.

AFBI’s science plays a crucial role for the department in underpinning statutory and analytical testing; research and development; emergency response capability and expert scientific advice to support its various work programmes.

AFBI’s three main areas of work are:
  • Leading improvements in the agri-food industry;
  • protecting animal, plant and human health and;
  • enhancing the natural and marine environments.

AFBI has seven sites across Northern Ireland: Newforge Lane (HQ); Stormont; Hillsborough; Crossnacreevy; Loughgall; Omagh; Bushmills. It also has a 53m marine dedicated research vessel based in the Port of Belfast.