Agri-Food Sector Profile

 

The agri-food sector is of vital importance to the Northern Ireland (NI) economy, now and in the future. For many years it has been one of the primary drivers of our economy providing many jobs and contributing to the sustainability of the rural sector. The narrow definition of the agri-food sector includes those enterprises engaged in agriculture and the processing of food and drink. A broader definition includes wholesale and retail activities associated with food.

Jobs in the sector

Some examples of jobs in the agri-food industry are shown below.

Abattoir worker
Animal scientist
Animal traceability operative
Agricultural consultant
Agricultural economist
Agricultural engineer
Agriculture research scientist
Agronomist
Animal breeder
Animal nutritionist
Animal technologist
Arboriculturist
Biochemical engineer
Botanist

Butcher
Cook
Ecologist
Factory operative
Farm manager
Farmer
Fisherman
Fisheries research scientist
Food quality control analyst
Food safety technician
Food scientist
Food technician
Forester
Fruit and veg grower

Horticulturist
Landscape scientist
Leakage Operative
Measurement control technician
Micro biologist
Packaging designer
Plant breeder/geneticist
Polymer Chemist
Process development technologist
Quality assurance tester
Savoury flavourists
Soil scientist
Supply chain manager

Who are the employers?

There are 26000 farms and 300+ food manufacturing and processing companies in NI who employ over 115,000 people. Some examples of companies in the sector are:

John Thompson Animal Feed
Kettyle Irish Meats and Foods
Evron Food Group Ltd
Foyle Food Group
Dale Farm
Moy Park
Just Farm Energy
Avondale Foods
Mash Direct
Barefruit Products
Forest Feast

Wilson's Country Foods
Davison Fresh Foods
Fivemiletown Creamery
Flax for Nutrition
Irwin's Bakery
Tickety Moo Icecream
Mullin's Ice Cream Ltd
White's
Fane Valley
Whitewater Brewing Co.

Studying in the sector

There are a range of agri food related courses available at the colleges and Universities throughout Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Some educational institutes are developing courses specifically for the agri-food sector. In 2010 University of Ulster introduced Northern Ireland's first agri-food specific post graduate diploma course - PgDip/ MSc Agri-food Business Development.

Courses available

Agricultural technology
Agriculture
Agri-food business development
Animal behaviour and welfare
Biochemistry
Biological sciences
Ecological management
Environmental sustainability
Environmental biology

Diet and nutrition
Food biotechnology
Food management
Food manufacture
Food nutrition and health Food quality and safety
Food regulatory affairs
Food technology
Genetics

Land use & environmental management
Marine biology
Microbiology
Molecular biology
Molecular ecology
Rural and countryside management
Rural sustainability
Supply chain management

At school

Many of the subjects studied at school can set you on the right path for a career in the agri-food sector, for example, Science and Technology, Mathematics, Home Economics and Art and Design.

For further and higher education courses visit:

Queens University

Future of the sector

The future of the agri-food sector looks promising and job prospects are good. The following five areas have been identified by experts in the sector as important areas to focus on in the future:

  • Differentiated/functional food
  • Innovative process and packaging
  • Enhancing consumer knowledge
  • Leveraging computational science
  • Exploiting the multifunctional nature of agri-food
  • Consumers are more health conscious
  • Increased need for convenience foods
  • Emphasis on organic produce
  • Increased regulations and legislation
  • Emphasis on food safety and traceability
  • Impact of environmental issues
  • Increasing populations