Applied research and development has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the Northern Ireland agri-food industry achieves the same rate of productivity growth as our competitors.
This was the message delivered by Dr Sinclair Mayne, Chief Executive of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) at the organisation’s Science Outlook conference on Tuesday 13 March.
Referring to the recent report from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board – ‘Driving Productivity Growth Together’ – Sinclair Mayne, AFBI Chief Executive said:
“Just like the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland has some of the most productive and dynamic farming businesses in the world, but the AHDB report clearly identified that the rate of productivity growth has slowed over the past few years. As a result, NI’s agri-food sector risks lagging behind the world leaders such as Germany, the Netherlands and the USA.
“Continued investment in applied research, together with greater collaboration and knowledge sharing will enable us to address the gap and ensure the pace of productivity speeds up.”
In addition to prioritising investment in applied research, AFBI is working closely with farmers, processors and retailers across the agri-food and fisheries industries to ensure the best ideas for new technologies are advanced.
AFBI’s Science Outlook conference – ‘Shaping Livestock Farming for 2030’ – provided an important platform for industry stakeholders to engage and discuss the very latest developments ranging from science solutions to Bovine TB, the potential of ‘Big Data’, to the role of land management in delivering profitable, sustainable farming.
Speakers included Prof Simon More, UCD, Professor Donagh Berry, Teagasc, Dr John Gilliland and Dr Donnacha Doody, AFBI.
Also at the conference AFBI launched its new Research Impacts report which highlights examples of the organisation’s work with industry across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Projects included remedying the chronic sulphur deficiency in NI grassland, securing a sustainable future for eel fishing, and preventing the spread of avian flu to the local poultry industry.
Sinclair Mayne added: “Today’s conference is further proof of the relevance and application of AFBI’s ongoing research programme and is testament to the excellence of our scientists and wider team.
“In the 12 years that we have been operational, we have grown external funding from £6 million in 2006 to £23 million in 2017. We acknowledge all the funding bodies which have supported our efforts and reiterate the need for continued investment if we are to help the agri-food sector meet its full potential.”