Technology Key To Future Of Farming, Belfast Animal Science Conference Told

Science, technology and research are key to the future of Northern Ireland’s agricultural sector, a major farming conference in Belfast has heard.

Welcoming 1,500 delegates to the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) conference in the Waterfront Hall, Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen said the adoption of new technology was a priority.

Ms McIlveen said: “Northern Ireland has a rich history of agri food innovations and one of my key priorities is to enable our agri-food industry to increase sustainability.

“The agri-food sector generates £5 billion into the local economy and it is very appropriate this conference is being held in the year of food and drink.

“We have to produce food as sustainably as possible, and the adoption of new research and development is a key driver of this.

“And, I must mention Brexit.

“The UK Chancellor has announced a commitment to funding EU research in the future, so we will benefit from that.” Ms McIlveen spoke ahead of European Union Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan, who said he was delighted to address the very people needed to conduct vital research for the future.

Mr Hogan said farmers needed to adapt to a changing industry.

He said: “We know that the agricultural sector must become smarter, leaner and cleaner, and that requires more and better knowledge that allows us to build a more competitive and sustainable food production system that creates new value chains in rural areas.

“We know we need the knowledge, but as a result of various crises in the EU we have fallen behind our targets and allowed agricultural research to become a lower priority than it should be.

“There is a resurgent ambition to change this. We must make research and innovation a central plank of the rural development programme.

“Agriculture has not yet caught up with the digital revolution and that is something we must change.”