The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) recently held an Open Day at our Hillsborough site. The meeting was very well attended by stakeholders from across the agri-food sector.

AFBI Board Chair, Colm McKenna, welcomes the delegates at AFBI's Open Day

Our Board Chairman, Mr Colm McKenna, welcomed delegates and introduced the event.  He referred to the many opportunities presented to the local agri-food industry by the global food security challenge, increasing prosperity of populations in many developing countries and the adverse impact of climate change in many countries. Colm stated that these and other opportunities can only be successfully exploited if we grow the sector in a sustainable manner while increasing competitiveness and profitability. He said that sustainable expansion, as outlined in the Going for Growth strategy, requires applied research to drive innovation.

Poster and machinery displays in the courtyard
Poster and machinery displays in the courtyard
Professor Kennedy, AFBI Chief Executive, followed with an overview of the Institute, including examples of the impact AFBI has had on the agri-food sector locally and further afield. He also spoke about the challenges facing AFBI in the years to come, as well as the opportunities which are available by unlocking funding from the EU Horizon2020 programme, the UK government’s Agricultural Technologies Strategy and other sources.

Senior AFBI scientists presented a series of 5-minute talks on their world class science in a range of areas. 

Dr Conrad Ferris, Head of Dairy Research at AFBI Hillsborough, was first up presenting research to support the renewal of the Nitrates Directive Derogation in Northern Ireland. His Presentation can be viewed here: Conrad Ferris (pdf, 161kb)

Dr Francis Lively, AFBI’s Head of Beef Research, demonstrated how his unit’s research is working towards the objective of developing a sustainable, competitive beef industry. Francis Lively (pdf, 268kb).

Project Leader in the Agri-Environment Branch, Dr John Bailey, outlined AFBI’s environmental research for sustainable production including the importance of understanding the links between soil, water and air quality John Bailey (pdf, 234kb).

Dr Annika Clements, AFBI Seabed Mapping Project Leader, described the necessity of accurately and completely assessing the seabed around Northern Ireland, including an assessment of the sensitivity of seabed habitats to development, mapping of the range of habitats and communities across the seafloor and ensuring adequate representation of habitats in Marine Protected Area. Annika explained how AFBI’s work also supports the ecosystem management of fisheries through understanding how fish and shellfish species utilise habitats, both on the seabed and in the water column. Annika Clements (pdf, 2.8Mb).

Dr Adrian Allen, Project Leader in Bacteriology Branch, presented AFBI’s ongoing world class research into the molecular characterisation of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. AFBI is world renowned for developing markers for studying the molecular epidemiology of TB.  Adrian also summarised AFBI’s work on improved diagnostic tests for bovine TB. Adrian Allen (pdf, 115kb).

Professor Glenn Kennedy, Head of Chemical Surveillance Branch, presented his branch’s work on surveillance of chemical residues in food and feeding stuffs. He outlined how recent analytical advances can detect residues of a chemical compounds with a sensitivity of one in nine parts per billion – the equivalent of finding one person among the entire world population!  He also referred to AFBI’s role as the UK National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for illegal veterinary drugs and marine biotoxins. Glenn Kennedy (pdf, 155kb).

Dr David McCleery, the Northern Ireland Contact Point for agri-food for the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, described how NI agri-food companies can benefit from the the world’s largest research and innovation fund- with €3.9bn set aside for agri-food research. The funding programme focuses on bringing research to the field/market, supplies a Europe-wide networking opportunity, gives projects access to state-of-the-art knowledge and technology and provides opportunities in new markets. David McCleery (pdf, 101kb).

In concluding the plenary session, Colm McKenna again referred to the importance of AFBI’s scientific work to the development of the local agri-food industry. He thanked all for coming and invited delegates to speak to scientists from all areas of the Institute with poster and machinery displays in the courtyard.

Notes to editors: 

AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DARD and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies. 

AFBI's Vision is “Scientific excellence in Northern Ireland …  serving the world”.

All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office.


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