The Agri-food sector is key to delivering export led economic growth for Northern Ireland, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has stressed.
Speaking at the official opening of a new £3million Food Innovation Centre at Loughry Campus, Cookstown, the minister said: “The Agri-food sector remains the most resilient part of our local economy, recording year-on-year growth at a time when other industries are falling behind.
“It is important that the sector is positioned to exploit market opportunities, supplying the right products at the right price and the right time. Food innovation is a key driver for growth of this area so this new state-of-the-art centre is essential in our drive for economic growth here.
“I believe this superb facility will act as a catalyst to inspire Loughry students and provide our agri-food companies the opportunity to develop world class innovative products to meet the ever-changing demands of the consumer.”
The minister added: “The work undertaken at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Loughry Campus will be very important to this sector. Food courses, up to degree level, delivered by CAFRE provide a highly skilled pool of potential employees and managers for local food and drinks processing businesses. CAFRE also provides a range of technical support services for food businesses and this includes the new Food Innovation Centre.”
The new facility encompasses areas to stimulate and encourage creativity and idea generation, innovation kitchens to covert these ideas to product concepts, enhanced individual and group sensory analysis facilities and new packaging design and prototyping equipment. Additionally the building has been designed with environmental sustainability in mind and features biomass heating, solar PV and rainwater harvesting systems.
It has been jointly funded by DARD and the Executive’s “Jobs for the Economy” initiative. It will act as a key “food hub” to facilitate enhanced co-operation between government, research institutions and industry, and contribute to DARD’s commitment to the Agri-Food Strategy Board (AFSB) “Going for Growth” report.