Agri-food conference encourages the industry to adapt and evolve

Over four nights next week (January 25-28, 2021) the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster will be hosting its fourth bi-annual, Agri-Food Conference via online platform Zoom, due to current restrictions.

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 10:00 am

The free Agri-food conference sponsored by Dunbia Meats, Power NI and Danske Bank, takes place at a time of tremendous change for agriculture in Northern Ireland. Titled ‘Adapt and Evolve,’ the agri- food conference will feature a range of debates, presentations and workshops looking at: The future of the industry, Sustainability, Improving control of your farm finances and Agricultural subsidies post Brexit.

Richard Beattie, chair of the YFCU Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “This year’s conference has defiantly lived up to its name ‘Adapt and Evolve’. This is the first of its kind to take an online format, but none the less we hope that the range of topics and speakers can help participants overcome the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that the agriculture and food processing industry in Northern Ireland faces.

“The range of speakers and topics goes to show how vibrant and vast our industry is and what opportunities lie out there for members to be involved in, in what is the most rewarding sector to work in.”

Rodney Brown

Delegates will hear from a variety of leading industry experts including:

Dr John Gilliland

Dr John Gilliland, is director of Global Agriculture and Sustainability at Devenish, an innovative livestock nutrition company which creates complete solutions, improving animal, human and environmental health, simultaneously.

For the last six years, John has been project leader of the Devenish Lands at Dowth in Ireland, a ruminant and landscape research farm, where the company is well on its way to delivering carbon neutral beef and lamb production by 2025; and as a result the farm been selected as one of eleven international lighthouse farms for Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands.

Sarah Haire

John Gilliland is highly respected and recognised as an excellent leader and communicator across the breadth of the agri food and sustainable land management sectors.

He has been an award winning farmer in Ireland, president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union; a non executive director of the Scottish Rural College (SRUC), and an energy regulator in Northern Ireland; while at the same time, he has been a policy adviser for devolved, national and european governments on biotechnology, climate change and sustainability.

UFU beef and lamb

chairman Sam Chesney

Victor Chestnutt

Sam currently stocks a small sheep flock and over 150 suckler cows on a birth to beef system in Co Down. Sam farms with his son and daughter Robert and Lauren, and partner Sinead who, with a sound business background,questions many things farmers do for no reward.

Sam said: “It has been said that I am obsessed with agriculture, but I feel I have the knowledge and drive to make a difference to all beef and sheep farmers in Northern Ireland and will not take a bad deal for the family structure of farming.

“The main issues facing the beef and lamb committee at present are dealing with making a profit in different Brexit scenarios and also quality assurance and antibiotic usage.

“Leaving that aside I will constantly and actively look for new markets and ways to add value to our produce and will defend the benefits of our local beef and lamb.”

Dr Rosemary Agnew, DAERA transition policy director

Her responsibilities include leading the EU preparations across the department and the development of a future agricultural policy framework. Her division is one of six within the food and farming group. Rosemary works closely with other NICS and Whitehall departments and agri food stakeholders. She holds a PhD in Animal Science and has held a number of roles within the department. Rosemary started her career in Greenmount Agricultural College and then moved on promotion to lead a ruminant nutrition research team at ARINI, Hillsborough and a senior lecturer in The Queen’s University of Belfast. Prior to her current role she has led a number of policy development activities across the rural, renewable and agricultural portfolios within DAERA. In 2004 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society in recognition of her outstanding contribution to agriculture in Northern Ireland.

Sarah Haire - Dunbia

Sarah has worked for in the agri-food industry for nearly 20 years across a wide cross section of the industry including production agriculture, NGOs, retailing, animal welfare and meat production. Sarah is the head of agriculture for the Dawn Meats Group which encompasses a varied workstream across the Dawn Meats and Dunbia business, ranging from customer liaison on agricultural matters, all aspects of animal welfare from farm to factory, as well as agri-based projects looking at sustainable beef and lamb production in the UK and Ireland. Sarah is currently chair of the UK Cattle Sustainability Platform, a collaboration of retailers, processors, farmer groups and industry experts seeking to bring clarity to the sustainability discussions and share common goals. Sarah is the immediate past chair of the European Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and sits on the Red Tractor beef and lamb technical committee. Sarah has a BSc (Hons) in agriculture with agricultural marketing, an MSc in food marketing and quality from Harper Adams University, and received a Nuffield Farming Trust Scholarship in 2007. Sarah, along with her husband William and four year old daughter, are also beef and sheep farmers, with a small herd of pedigree Hereford and cross bred Hereford cows, running alongside a small flock of Wiltshire horn sheep and three token Berkshire pigs.

Harriet Wilson,

agriculture and sustainable sourcing manager for McDonald’s UK

and Ireland

Harriet grew up on her family’s beef and sheep farm in Staffordshire and graduated from Harper Adams University in 2014, having spent her placement year as agricultural assurance co-ordinator at McDonald’s. Her work experience has spanned various parts of the farming and food industry, including a summer placement within the Sainsbury’s agriculture team and she is a previous columnist for the Farmers Weekly.

In 2018, she received the Meat Business Women ‘One to Watch’ Award and in 2017 was named a ‘Rising Star’ by Farmers Weekly.

Harriet is a member of the NFU’s Next Generation Policy Forum and was an active young farmers’ member, where she was chairman of the National Agricultural and Rural Affairs Steering Group. She continues to be a club leader for her local club Eccleshall YFC where she enjoys coaching younger members in public speaking and stock judging, as well as organising various charity events.

Rodney Brown, head

of agribusiness,

Danske Bank 

Rodney Brown has been involved in agriculture all his life and has spent the majority of his 25-year career at Danske Bank within the agribusiness team. Through his career he has seen many changes within the industry. He has been head of agribusiness since 2018, leading the bank’s team of agribusiness specialists to help Northern Ireland’s agricultural community fulfil its potential, and ensure our farmers continue to play a key role in the Northern Ireland economy.

Victor Chestnutt, president Ulster Farmers’ Union

Victor Chestnutt is a fourth generation livestock farmer based on the North Antrim Coast, near the Giant’s Causeway. Married with two grown up children, Zara who works in CAFRE Advisory Service, and David who works on the farm along with his wife Carol. A Greenmount student in 1978, Victor developed the home farm into several livestock enterprises mainly sucklers and sheep with his son moving into dairying in 2009. Pedigree Texel sheep were introduced in the early 1980s. Victor represented Northern Ireland and held many positions within the Texel board, culminating in being chairman and president of the British Texel Sheep Society. Victor was re-elected for a second term as deputy president at the AGM in 2018, having served 2016-2018.

If you would like to attend the conference please follow the followin link: