Balmoral Show: New £6.7m centre to help agri-food sector

Jonathan Bell (centre) made the announcement at the Balmoral Show, where he is  pictured with Prof Chris Elliot, Queen's University Belfast, and Michael Bell, NIFDA
Jonathan Bell (centre) made the announcement at the Balmoral Show, where he is pictured with Prof Chris Elliot, Queen's University Belfast, and Michael Bell, NIFDA

A new £6.7m investment will improve the competitiveness of the Province’s agri-food sector, it has been claimed.

The Northern Ireland Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre (AFQCC) has been described as an “industry-academia research partnership” which is essential to help local companies keep up with the fierce competition they face on the world’s global markets.

Financing for the centre is made up of £5million of assistance from Invest NI and a £1.7million investment from industry partners.

Hosted at Queen’s University, Belfast, the new Competence Centre will draw upon the research capabilities of Ulster University (UU), Queen’s and the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

The centre’s primary focus will be on improving the international competitive position of the Northern Ireland agri-food sector through innovation and co-operative research.

Making the announcement at the Balmoral Show, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said: “The centre will provide a platform for companies which want to pursue research projects in areas such as packaging, shelf-life, waste minimisation and food security.

“Not only will it support the development of our local food industry to compete strongly in export markets, it will also build on the agri-food knowledge and skills that already exist in Northern Ireland.

“I would encourage companies operating in the agri-food sector to explore how this centre could benefit their business.”

Dr David Dobbin, chairman of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, congratulated the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment for supporting the venture, adding: “NIFDA has been working for four years with Invest NI and our partners to bring this centre to fruition.”