£3M food innovation centre for Northern Ireland

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

The centre is intended to be a key food hub for Northern Ireland
The centre is intended to be a key food hub for Northern Ireland

Related tags: Northern ireland, Sustainability

A £3M food innovation centre has been opened in Northern Ireland, designed to help especially smaller businesses and artisans develop new products for consumers.

The centre, located on the Loughry campus of the region’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprises (CAFRE), offers areas to stimulate and encourage creativity and idea generation.

Innovation kitchens are provided to help participating companies to covert ideas to product concepts.

Additionally the building, which is in rural Cookstown in county Tyrone, has been designed with environmental sustainability in mind and features biomass heating, solar PV and rainwater harvesting systems.

“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,”​ said Northern Ireland agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill, who opened the centre.

‘Innovation key driver’

“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 centre is essential in our drive for economic growth here.”

Food and drink is now Northern Ireland's biggest manufacturing sector, generating more than £4.5bn annually for the local economy.

Food courses, up to degree level, delivered by CAFRE would help provide a highly skilled pool of potential employees and managers for local food and drinks processing businesses, trade body Invest Northern Ireland claimed.

The centre forms part of a wider range of technical support services for food businesses provided by CAFRE.

It has been jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive’s Jobs for the Economy initiative.

Food hub

It is intended to be a key food hub, facilitating co-operation between government, research institutions and the industry.

It complements longstanding CAFRE facilities. These include a technology building and extensive incubation units already occupied by a range of smaller food companies.

The college has a microbrewery that has stimulated the growth of craft ales in the region including Whitewater Brewing Company, a winner of the UK’s Great Taste awards.

It provides farmhouse cheese programmes that have led to the emergence of artisan cheese companies such as Fivemiletown, Dart Mountain and Kearney Blue. It has also assisted the development of farm diversification projects which have produced Glastry Farm Ice Cream and Clandeboye Estate, Northern Ireland's only yoghurt processor.

Facilities include

  • a large teaching kitchen for students;
  • an industrial-style kitchen for use by client companies for new product development (NPD);
  • a computerised sensory analysis suite with dedicated preparation kitchen, 10 individual sensory analysis booths, group panel areas;
  • a packaging prototype design area;
  • conference and meeting facilities;
  • market intelligence and creativity room

Related topics: Services

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