Partnerships build on CAFRE’s strengths in 2023

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As the end of 2023 approaches, staff at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) have taken the opportunity to reminisce on some of the pivotal events that took place this year.

They reflect on the year-long activities, both on and off-campus, that successfully engaged with the agri-food and land-based sectors.

Students at CAFRE have achieved outstanding competition success, staff have worked with industry partners to promote sustainability and innovation.

Across Enniskillen, Greenmount and Loughry campuses they have been productive resulting in a productive year of growth and college outreach.

CAFRE students compete at Floristry World Cup event. (Pic: CAFRE)CAFRE students compete at Floristry World Cup event. (Pic: CAFRE)
CAFRE students compete at Floristry World Cup event. (Pic: CAFRE)

Arable conference

January's Arable Conference at Greenmount Campus, Antrim, was held in collaboration with CAFRE, Ulster Arable Society and Ulster Farmers' Union. The conference highlighted important issues pertaining to agronomy and business management. These included discussions on grain and fertiliser markets, improving energy efficiency in arable farms, and options for efficient fertiliser utilisation.

Calf Rearing Open Days

CAFRE and Agri Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) jointly organised two open days, which were focused on healthy calf rearing. These events featured Dairy Advisers and Technologists from CAFRE, who discussed various aspects of rearing dairy heifers, from pre-calving to weaning. AFBI staff presented their Optihouse project, highlighting common causes of poor house design and the future use of modelling technology for calf house design. The open days concluded with CAFRE Technologists providing a ‘snap shot’ of energy use and efficiency in the dairy unit.

Calf Rearing Open Days. (Pic: CAFRE)Calf Rearing Open Days. (Pic: CAFRE)
Calf Rearing Open Days. (Pic: CAFRE)

‘Dairy 4 Future’ Project

In March, Northern Ireland Pilot Dairy Farms completed the ‘Dairy 4 Future’ Project – an innovative and exciting Atlantic Interreg funded project which comprised 12 regions, from across eight countries, including Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Spain, and Portugal. The project had technical support from 11 partners, including local organisations such as CAFRE, SRUC, AHDB, and Teagasc. The data from 100 pilot farms and ten experimental farms were used to tackle four significant areas that aimed to improve competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience. These areas included analysing the dairy sector's strengths and weaknesses, promoting economic resilience, enhancing resource use efficiency, and determining sustainable dairy systems for the future.

Approval of Loughry Campus as a Pet Food Plant

Loughry Campus, Cookstown received registration in the spring to assist food processing companies in exploring the conversion of their waste products into pet food. The Food Technology Centre received approval for the pilot production of pet foods, thanks to the collaboration between CAFRE Food Technologists and DAERA Veterinary Services.

Paving their way to Horticulture success. (Pic: CAFRE)Paving their way to Horticulture success. (Pic: CAFRE)
Paving their way to Horticulture success. (Pic: CAFRE)

Launch of Soil Nutrient Health Scheme Training

To support farmers participating in the Soil Nutrient Health Scheme (SNHS), CAFRE launched an online training platform. The training is designed to provide farmers with the knowledge and skills they need to interpret nutrient health scheme results and fertiliser recommendations received from the SNHS. In addition, the training explains the role and significance of carbon on Northern Ireland farms and demonstrates how to prepare a nutrient management plan using the CAFRE Crop Nutrient Calculator.

Industry Bursary and Scholarship Awards

April marked the end of the bursary and scholarship awards presented across CAFRE. They are pleased to announce that 49 bursaries, each valued at £1,500, were awarded during 2023, along with seven Scholarships worth £2,500 each. This demonstrates the unwavering support that the local industry has for Higher Education students enrolled at CAFRE. In total, a remarkable amount of £91,000 was presented to degree students studying at Greenmount Campus, Enniskillen Campus and Loughry Campus during 2023.

Industry Bursary and Scholarship Awards. (Pic: Simon Graham)Industry Bursary and Scholarship Awards. (Pic: Simon Graham)
Industry Bursary and Scholarship Awards. (Pic: Simon Graham)

Equine Conference

The conference organised by students at Enniskillen Campus is always a highlight in the academic calendar. The ‘Optimising Performance in the Equine Athlete’ conference secured a fantastic line up of speakers including Lisa Allen (Equimech), Dr Sinead Devine (University College Dublin, Veterinary Hospital), Tony Tyler (World Horse Welfare) and Martin Payne (Master Farrier). A great day which focused on improving rider and horse performance.

Horticulture students met King Charles III and Queen Camilla

A group of Horticulture students and staff attended the official opening of the Coronation Pleasure Gardens in Hazelbank Park, Newtownabbey. Celebrated garden designer Diarmuid Gavin, who has partnered with Antrim and Newtownabbey Council to create a Botanical Borough, gave CAFRE students the chance to gain practical experience in constructing the garden through a long-standing relationship developed with the college.

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend events

Over 2,000 people visited Greenmount Campus, Antrim and Enniskillen Campus during the Bank of Ireland’s celebration of Open Farm Weekend. The events offered visitors the chance to take a tour of the campuses, exploring and experiencing agriculture, horticulture, food and equine activities.

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend events. (Pic: CAFRE)Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend events. (Pic: CAFRE)
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend events. (Pic: CAFRE)

Innovation Voucher supports business growth

CAFRE supports small and medium sized businesses to innovate through the Invest NI Innovation Voucher programme. Through a partnership approach, companies access support, specialist knowledge and practical skills required to help promote innovation, develop new products and systems to assist business to grow. One business to work with Food Technologists at Loughry Campus this year has been Chestnutt’s Farm, Portrush. Awarded an Innovation Voucher worth £5,000 the business intends to develop a Greek ‘style’ yoghurt to further extend their range of farm produce.

CAFRE students to complete at Floristry World Cup event

A team of three budding florists from CAFRE competed in a student competition at the prestigious Interflora World Cup. Grace Thompson, Carly Gilmore and Kathleen McClorey showcased their skills at the Manchester Central Exhibition Complex, creating a floral design themed on ‘Our Natural World’ picking up third place in the competition. A great achievement for the Floristry students and department.

Innovative Food Degrees at CAFRE

CAFRE, working in partnership with the Ulster University, has been redeveloping Food degree courses offered at Loughry Campus, Cookstown. Having consulted widely with employers and potential applicants the new courses, being reformulated for validation by Ulster University, will help ensure Loughry graduates drive innovation and sustainability across the food supply industry.

Paving their way to Horticulture success

Congratulations to the three CAFRE Horticulture students who competed at the UK WorldSkills finals. Two Level 3 Horticulture graduates brought home medals in Landscape Gardening, Anna McLoughlin won Gold and Aimee Copeland won Silver. A fantastic achievement for the girls, Anna is CAFRE’s first female medal winner in Landscape Gardening.

They hope this overview of the year has provided you with a flavour of activities across CAFRE. In a year that has seen over 14,800 people benefitting from education and industry training programmes at CAFRE, and 471 students graduate from the college, it’s really difficult to highlight all of the achievements. CAFRE looks forward to continuing to work with stakeholders and engage with new leaners as we enter a new year. All at CAFRE wish you a happy and prosperous 2024.

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