Northern Ireland's agri-food higher education campuses (CAFRE) are set to undergo a transformation as part of a £75 million investment.
Announcing the plans, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots said CAFRE campuses will underpin future sustainable growth of the Northern Ireland agri-food industry.
Both campuses at Loughry and Greenmount will undergo a significant refurbishment programme which will include new modern student accommodation and high-tech facilities to support student learning. It will also see the establishment of a 'science centre' at Loughry College, which will be shared with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).
£75 million investment
Announcing the £75 million investment, 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. 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.
“This investment complements the recent launch of the BSc (Hons) Degrees in Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture and the Higher Level Apprenticeships in Food and will ensure that CAFRE remains at the forefront of agri-food education across these islands.
"The plans for Loughry will also include a science centre which will be shared with food research staff in AFBI. These top-class facilities will be the centre of knowledge and innovation for the industry leaders and decision-makers of the future.
“CAFRE is well placed to deliver education, knowledge transfer and innovation programmes which will assist in the delivery of my Green Growth initiative. I also welcome the fact that the design and construction of the new buildings will be environmentally sustainable, enhancing the well-being of all who use, live and work in them."
CAFRE campus work set to begin by 2023
Welcoming the funding for the campus investments, college director Martin McKendry said: “Modern, well-designed facilities at Greenmount and Loughry Campuses are strategically important for recruitment onto our wide portfolio of courses.
"Planning for these projects has already commenced and construction will begin in late 2022 / early 2023.
"The building work will have a phased approach to minimise disruption to the delivery of our programmes and we have a target completion date of 2028. I look forward to seeing the impact of this work as each stage of the project is completed.”