The Agricultural Science Association holds its annual conference at the Kilashee Hotel near Naas on the 7th of September. The conference is preceded on the 6th of September by the ASA president’s banquet hosted by the current president of the association, Derrie Dillon. This black-tie event is now considered to be the largest and most important networking opportunity of the year for those working in sectors allied to agricultural science. Taking place on the eve of the annual ASA Conference, the banquet attracts prominent industry leaders and senior executives from a wide range of disciplines within the broader Irish agricultural and food industry.
Reinforcing consumer trust
The ASA conference this year will feature a strong line-up of The ASA conference this year will feature a strong line-up of Irish and international speakers, with keynote industry leaders lined up from New Zealand, USA, Europe and Ireland. The event will be officially opened by Michael Creed, TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and contributors will include John Jordan, CEO, Ornua; Nicola Byrne, President,Irish Exporters Association; Jason Hawkins, Chief Executive,Carbery Group; Joe Healy, President, Irish FarmersAssociation; Dennis Laycraft, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association; Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive, NDC; and Owen Brennan, Executive Chairman, Devenish. The title of the conference this year is apt considering the huge uncertainty around continuing trade with Britain in the aftermath of Brexit. Termed ‘From Consumer Trust to Trade Wars’, the Challenge for Agri-Food’, the day-long event should allow attendees to gauge the latest thinking as to how Brexit will eventually unfold in the coming EU/UK negotiations set to resume this autumn.In addition, the issue of consumer trust will be discussed as the ASA president confirmed: “The whole area of trust in our products is central to the continuing success trust in our products is central to the continuing successof Irish agri-food trade across the globe. Unless we can guarantee the quality of our produce and the sustainability of our production and processing practices we will be at an a severe disadvantage in competing for market space in the years ahead. We are seeing huge changes across the globe in food trade and we need to be able to match and exceed the expectations of the buyers of our food.”
Encouraging an agri career option
Derrie Dillon believes that the strength of the ASA liesDerrie Dillon believes that the strength of the ASA lies in the fact that it places great emphasis on encouraging young people to consider a career based on the agrisciences: “There are ongoing opportunities for graduates across a range of careers in the agri sector. Innovation and research opportunities are a growing segment of that career choice and many of our graduates return to college to carry out postgraduate work in the areas of research and product development, alongside the opportunities that exist for that kind of work in industry and the semi-state sectors.
Investing in innovation
Derrie Dillon believes that great strides have been madeDerrie Dillon believes that great strides have been made in terms investment of capital, physical and human resources in developing the country’s research and development capabilities: “We have a good record interms of our research in relation to the agri foodsector. Engaging in innovative processes and adding value to our food products are the key means by which we can demand and achieve premium means by which we can demand and achieve premium prices for our output. We are a small island with a small population of consumers and we have to export the vast proportion of what we produce, whether that’s products or services. Research and innovation will be the means by which we stay ahead of the curve competitively. All of that means that there are ongoing opportunities for agricultural Science graduates in the areas of research and innovation. There does need to be continuous investment in R&D, making it a core focus, most especially for our food companies that are most exposed to global trade. There are a number of good examples of Irish industries putting resources into innovation and research and those investments are paying off in terms of increased sales and premium product prices.”
Innovation in training
Derrie is full of praise for agricultural science graduatesDerrie is full of praise for agricultural science graduates in terms of them being well equipped for a career in the sector: “Our young graduates are well equipped for the work environment. With new and innovative courses continually being developed, our colleges need to be on top of their game to attract students and to deliver well trained graduates into the agri food and agri science workplaces. Many of the colleges are developing niche training areas that are well fitted to the needs of the food industry and that’s a welcome development. The ASA has been centrally involved in identifying work opportunities and industry needs that require innovative courses and those challenges are being met by our third level colleges.”